ONE Magazine Summer 2013

Page 1


Summer 2013

God • World • Human Family • Church


Children in Need Reaching India's Young ' Untouchables' Rescuing Children of War in Syria Learning Lessons in Hope in Ethiopia



one 20


Reaching the Young ‘Untouchables’ In India, a home for boys sparks a quiet revolution by Jose Kavi with photographs by Jose Jacob


6 8

Caring for the Smallest Among Us by Michael J.L. La Civita

‘It’s Not Just Talk and Chalk’ Helping the poorest of the poor at a school in Ethiopia by Don Duncan


Letter from Syria: Saving the Children of War A priest writes of CNEWA’s ‘lifeline of hope’ by Ziad Hilal, S.J.


Prayers in Paint Preserving an ancient tradition in Bethlehem by Nicholas Seeley


4 26

Connections Updates from the world of CNEWA


People from the world of CNEWA by Greg Kandra


Focus on the world of CNEWA by John E. Kozar

Issues Ecumenism by Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.


After years of wear and tear from shelling, tremors and general climate, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Jala called upon iconographer Ian Knowles, founder of the the Bethlehem Icon Center, to restore its ceiling.



Volume 39 NUMBER 2



ONE is #1. Again. For the second year in a row, ONE broke records at the Catholic Press Association Awards, winning 22 awards — more than any other single magazine — including first place for General Excellence. Give the gift of excellence: a subscription to ONE. In Canada, call 1-866-322-4441 or visit In the United States, call 1-800-442-6392 or visit



Front: Joseph Isaac, a child in the care of the Malankara Boys’ Home in India, prepares to perform a skit. Back: An icon by Ian Knowles, written directly on concrete, adorns one of the segments of the Israeli separation wall near the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint in Bethlehem.

Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Annie Grunow Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro

Photo Credits Cover, pages 3 (lower left), 20-25, Jose Jacob; pages 2, 7 (lower left), 35, back cover, Tanya Habjouqa; pages 3 (top left), 10-13, Petterik Wiggers; page 3 (top right), CNS/Omar Ibrahim, Reuters; page 3 (lower right), 30-33, Nicholas Seeley; page 3 (far right), 18 (top), 38-39, John E. Kozar; pages 4, 29, L’Osservatore Romano; page 5, Maria Bastone; pages 6, 7 (upper left), Sister Christian Molidor; page 7 (right), Peter Lemieux; pages 8-9, 39, Thomas Varghese/CNEWA; pages 14-15, CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters; page 16-17, Ziad Hilal, S.J.; page 18 (bottom), CNS/ Laszlo Balogh, Reuters; page 19, CNS/Abo Oday, Reuters; page 26-27, CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters; page 28, Bettmann/Corbis; page 35, Steve Sabella; page 36, courtesy of Argaw Fantu.

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.

ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar

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 ©2013 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.





Msgr. Kozar Discusses Aid to Eastern Churches In June, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar attended the 86th annual “ROACO” meeting of aid agencies concerned for the Eastern churches in Rome, which is convened by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches. CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Carl Hétu, also participated. Both men stayed at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence home to Pope Francis. “Imagine the surprise of ‘running into the Holy Father’ at various intervals in the lobby, coming out of the elevator, down the stairs,” said Msgr. Kozar. The aid agencies focused their discussions on efforts to help suffering Christians in Syria, Egypt and Iraq — places torn apart by conflicts that have created millions of desperate refugees. At the conclusion of the plenary, the bishop of Rome received all present in an audience to thank them for their tireless efforts and unflagging hope. “In a strong personal plea, the pope urged us not to give up on Syria,” Msgr. Kozar said. “And he gave us the formula of how a Catholic best responds to all circumstances: to be ‘rooted in faith, nourished in prayer, especially in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of faith and charity.’” TO READ MSGR. KOZAR’S FULL REPORT, VISIT WWW.CNEWABLOG.ORG/WEB/ROACO2013

ONE Sweeps Press Awards For the second year in a row, ONE magazine swept the Catholic press awards, winning a record-shattering 22 awards — more than any other single magazine — including First Place for General Excellence. The judges wrote: “The design, photography and writing place ONE among the very best of this year’s Catholic magazines, regardless of category.” For a full list of ONE’s awards, links to the winning stories and pictures, visit WWW.CNEWABLOG.ORG/ WEB/CPA2013 Groups Meet in Rome: Aid to Syria With the crisis in Syria worsening dai l y, the Pont ifical C ouncil 4


Cor Unum in June called together Catholic charitable organizations to discuss aid and support to people in the region. “That the Vatican had arranged for this special meeting on the Syrian crisis reflects the concern of the Holy Father regarding the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Issam Bishara, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, who attended the 5 June meeting. Most participants reported on their aid to the suffering Syrian population — aid carried out without regard for religion, he said. CNEWA has directed aid t o th o s e n o t r e g is te r e d with N G Os fo r s e cu r ity fe ar s , partnering with its many church contacts on the ground.

In remarks to those gathered, the pope called again for peace. “The participation of the entire Christian community in this important work of assistance and aid is imperative at this time,” he said. “Let every one of us think of Syria. … Let us contemplate Jesus’ suffering in the inhabitants of beloved Syria.” For more on the Syrian crisis, read Father Ziad Hilal’s Letter from Syria on Page 14. Catholic Women in the Holy Land In June, CNEWA Canada joined with the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which included visits to projects supported by CNEWA and the C.W.L., and Christians who live and work in the region.

OUR WEBSITE OUR BLOG The project began as an initiative to aid Holy Land Christians called “Velma’s Dream,” named for Velma Harasen, former president of the C.W.L. Ms. Harasen took part in the trip, along with CNEWA’s Carl Hétu, who noted that “it was an enriching experience for all. It became a real partnership between Christians in the Holy Land, CNEWA and the C.W.L.” To l ea r n more about t he pilgrimage, visit a special section of our blog, “Encountering Holy L and Chr i sti ans,” at WWW. CNEWABLOG.ORG/WEB/ ENCOUNTER2013 Missio President Visits On 25 July, Msgr. Klaus Krämer, president of the German Catholic mission charity, Missio, visited the New York offices of CNEWA. A longtime collaborator with Msgr. Kozar, Msgr. Krämer was in the United States to meet with other Catholic agencies and help build “Catholic solidarity.” He spoke of a desire to consolidate efforts and build a worldwide network of charities devoted to serving the poor in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

“We invest in people,” Msgr. Krämer explained.

Rest in Peace, Sister Christian

To learn more, read a full interview with Msgr. Krämer online at: WWW. ONEMAGAZINEHOME.ORG/ WEB/MSGRKRAMER Briefly noted… • CNEWA has named two new regional directors in the Horn of Africa. Argaw Fantu now heads our office in Addis Ababa, replacing Gerry Jones. Mr. Fantu has worked as an educa to r an d cate ch is t in Ethiopia for many years. You can read an interview with him on Page 36. Sister Lettemariam Mogos , D .C., wh o h ad b e e n servin g as ad m in is tr ato r o f our Asmara office, has been promoted to regional director for Eritrea. • T he Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria elected Metropolitan Ambrosii of D o r o s to l as in te r im metropolitan of Varna and Veliki Preslav. He replaces the late Metropolitan Kiril, who drowned while snorkeling in the Black Sea in early July.

Only on the Web

__ __ __ __ __


There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • Updates on new development projects in the Middle East • CNEWA and United States bishops join efforts to help construct a center for the disabled in Armenia • Read a June report on Gaza by Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel • Exclusive videos: Msgr. Kozar reflects on CNEWA’s support for children in need; Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., discusses the important role of his religious order in furthering ecumenism.



A beloved member of our CNEWA family, Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M., died on 22 July in Chicago after a long illness. She was 83. Sister Christian joined the agency in 1984. She served in many capacities over the years, but she may be most familiar to tens of thousands of friends and benefactors through her articles and pictures in this magazine and through the weekly emails she wrote until her retirement in 2011. We will have more on Sister Christian’s life and work in a future issue. May the Lord reward her for all the lives she touched. Read more about Sister Christian at our blog: WWW.CNEWABLOG.ORG/ WEB/SISTERCHRISTIAN Farewell to a Friend Alfred A. Lagan, a friend and benefactor of CNEWA for more than 30 years, passed away on 23 July. Born in 1935 and a veteran of the United States Navy, Mr. Lagan founded the investment firm Congress Asset Management Company. He leaves behind his wife, Joan, eight children, 19 grandchildren and an amazing legacy of generosity — especially when it came to the needs of the children CNEWA serves. We join our prayers with theirs, in gratitude, affection and hope, that the Lord may offer him eternal light and peace.



Children in



for the Smallest

Among Us

by Michael J.L. La Civita


or decades, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has been a champion in caring for needy children throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Working through its partners in the field — priests and sisters, bishops and caregivers of the Eastern Catholic churches — and strengthened by the generosity of its benefactors and friends, CNEWA has touched the lives of countless children suffering from abandonment, persecution, poverty and war. Yet, the needs of children in the areas served by CNEWA are increasing. Political volatility and civil war rock the Middle East. Indigent poverty and massive social changes shake Northeast Africa and India. And in Armenia and Georgia, the lack of social service safety nets has devastated the most vulnerable of their citizens: children, the handicapped and the aged. Regardless of the violence, the instability, the poverty and the

sickness, the churches are in the thick of it all, doing what Pope Francis said is necessary “to encounter the living God … to tenderly kiss Jesus’ wounds in our hungry, poor, sick and incarcerated brothers and sisters. “To touch the living God,” he continued, “we do not need to attend a ‘refresher course,’ but to enter into the wounds of Jesus, and to do so, all we need to do is go out onto the street.” The men and women who lead the child care initiatives of the Eastern Catholic churches have pressed CNEWA to help them respond to the growing needs of these children and of their families — needs CNEWA is compelled to address. And they have made some helpful suggestions about how CNEWA can do just that. Hence the changes to the association’s needy child program outlined by CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, in letters to benefactors. “We are shifting our program from a one-to-one ‘adoption’ approach,” he wrote, “to one that will focus on all the needy children cared for by the various child care initiatives of the local Eastern Catholic churches. While your

ongoing regular support for the child or children you have come to know will continue, your generous gifts will also assist more children cared for by the church.” Msgr. Kozar added: “In some of the areas where we serve, local authorities now prohibit the transmission of photographs while others limit the personal information of children. As a Catholic agency commit te d to acco u n tab ility , transparency and the protection of children, we must respect these new realities.” In this summer edition, ONE includes three profiles of needy child initiatives conducted by CNEWA’s partners. Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School stands on a bluff in the sprawling Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and educates the poorest of the poor. Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal rushes emergency care to Syrian children displaced by the horrific civil war that has engulfed his nation. And near the tip of the Indian subcontinent, the Malankara Boys’ Home provides boys — some of whom once wandered the streets — with shelter, care and schooling. The scope of care offered to needy children by the churches

throughout CNEWA’s world is astounding. It is targeted, efficient and effective. Motivated by the desire to know Jesus in the wounds of the poor and the suffering, these Christian witnesses make their concern and compassion for the most vulnerable a profound and loving act of faith. But they do not do it alone. They are continually uplifted by your prayers, your support and your generosity — all of which helps those most in need know they are cared for, cherished, and loved. We invite you to explore some of the stories in this issue of ONE and discover how that support is changing lives, and helping to heal a wounded world. Michael J.L. La Civita is CNEWA’s chief communications officer.

Watch a video of Msgr. John E. Kozar discussing the agency’s needy child FOR MORE EXCLUSIVE program at: CONTENT VISIT: WWW.CNEWA.ORG web/392a


Children in


‘It’s Not Just

Talk and Chalk’

Helping the poorest of the poor at a school in Addis Ababa By Don Duncan




n a physical education class at the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the students’ challenge is simple: find a group of fellow students and stay close to them. “We run in a circle and when the teacher blows the whistle and calls a number, we must group into clusters of that number,” explains 10-year-old Henok Tegu of the game they are playing in class today. “Those who don’t make it into a cluster are out of the game.” The games court of the school, a small space that serves as a football field, basketball and volleyball court, and running track, is the source of numerous whistle shrieks followed by choruses of excited squeals from the students. For this hour, at least, their sole concern is to stay in the game. But beyond the class, and beyond the confines of the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School, their lives are anything but this simple and carefree. The school, run by the Daughters of Charity and supported by CNEWA, is locate d in th e m id d le of Kac h e n e , th e p o o r e s t neighborhood of Addis Ababa. It is the only school in the city targeting the poorest of the poor and one of the very few that is financially accessible to them. Many of the students are orphans, or have lost one parent. A high pr oportio n o f p e o p le in th e neighborhood are blind. Most of the adults get by on a precarious income earned through begging or occasional labor such as weaving baskets, selling grilled corn on the street or cleaning car windows. The daily worries of the children


CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar plays with students at the Atse Tekla Ghiorgis School in Ethiopia.

attending the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School go beyond spelling tests and times tables. “These children are exposed to many risks due to the poverty they live in,” says Assefa Teklewold Worka, the children’s physical e d u catio n te ach e r. “ T h e y a r e exposed to tobacco, alcohol or sniffing petroleum from a very early age. They are also at risk from the various diseases that the slum they live in can bring — and, in some cases, from trafficking and coercion into sex work.” Despite these dangers, many of the school’s students are trying to stay in the game — to get a better e d u catio n an d , th e y h o p e , a better life. In fact, they are playing to win.


he Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School is a keen example of efficient use of space. Located on an acre of once-abandoned wasteland next to a graveyard, the school has managed to fit 18 classrooms plus toilets, science lab, library, small playing area and staffroom into the assiduously landscaped and tiered inclines of the property. The safety and hygiene of the school contrasts sharply with the dangers and unsanitary conditions of the surrounding slum areas. The school was started by two Ethiopian laymen more than 40 years ago to educate the children of lepers who had been completely shunned by Ethiopian society. Kachene and several of the neighborhoods surrounding it were considered taboo. While the public health problems and stigma of leprosy have since faded, the area is still a neglected corner of Addis Ababa. It is where other citizens come to dump their garbage, which trails down the various slopes of the hilly landscape. Little or no infrastructure is present. The neighborhood consists of improvised shacks constructed of

mud and corrugated iron roofs, which leak during the Ethiopian rainy season. But to the school’s 760 students, this is home. Home for Netsanet Terefe, 13, is a small shack where she lives with her parents and three brothers. The space is divided by one interior mud wall, painted mustard yellow, on which hang posters of Jesus, Mary and the Archangel Michael. On one side of the wall is a living area featuring cramped seats and a small wooden coffee table with orange bubble wrap as a tablecloth. On the other side of the wall is a double bed for the parents. There is a bamboo ladder leading up to a tiny loft containing a double mattress. It is there that the four children sleep, within a foot of the corrugated iron roof above. Rent is $13 a year and electricity is about $8 a month. Since neither parent is able to work, paying bills is a struggle. For now, two of the sons support the family doing jobs in stone masonry, shining shoes and working as fare collectors on the minibuses that transport people around the city. But Netsanet’s mother, Habetamua, knows the great hope for her children lies in education. “When they go to school, they will get knowledge,” she says, “and with knowledge they can get work and with work they can get money and with money they can help the family and themselves.” Netsanet’s plan is to become a civil engineer so she can provide for her family and help build better housing in her neighborhood. “The important thing I have learned at school so far is that I can change anything,” Netsanet says. “I can break poverty, I can make a comfortable life for my village, for my people and for my country.” B ut b e for e helping t heir country, their village or their



family, these children must learn how to help themselves. “What we hammer into them is that yes, they are coming from a deprived background, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t achieve,” says Sister Mary Mitchell, an Irish nurse with the Daughters of Charity who arrived in Ethiopia in 1996 and served as principal of the school from 2001 to 2011. “They are very conscious of where they are from and they don’t let that stop them. In fact, in some ways it motivates them. I learned a lot from our kids. I really did.”


art of the school’s ethos of instilling dignity and respect among the poor children is a policy of financial contribution. While it is the only school in Addis Ababa to target the poorest of the poor, offering virtually free e d u catio n , th e s ch ool doe s require an annual contribution of $5 — $3.50 for a uniform and $1.50 for tuition. “These contributions change nothing for us financially,” says Sister Mary, “but what is important is that the families make some kind of contribution, for the

“The important thing I have learned at school so far is that I can change anything.”

dignity of the child and the dignity of the family. We don’t believe in hand-outs.” In extreme cases of destitution, contributions can be waived. The school is also helping a handful of families with rent assistance, to coax them away from sending children out to work and encourage them instead to send them to school. Still, these gestures are always done in exchange for help in the school — a weekly chore of cleaning a classroom, for example, undertaken by a member of the beneficiary’s family. The $1.50 contribution toward tuition covers a feature unique to this school: a free lunch for every student each day. “It’s very important for most of the children,” says Sister Baleynesh Wolteji, an Ethiopian who took over from Sister Mary as principal in 2011. “Their parents are often beggars in the streets and most of these children come to school without having breakfast. So to get one meal a day is very good for them and, in addition, it enables them to concentrate on their studies.” The menu is simple: rice on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and injera, an Ethiopian flatbread, on Wednesday and Friday. Along with education and the clean and safe surroundings of the school, the daily meal contributes to the school’s high attendance rate. It may also be a key to the students’ excellent academic record. In the past 10 years, only one of the students has failed the state exam required at the end of eighth grade. And Sister Mary explains that this


The Kachene home of 13-year-old Netsanet Terefe, right, is a 20-foot by 26-foot shack constructed of mud.



The CNEWAConnection

In its work to uplift communities,

CNEWA carries on the venerable Catholic tradition of scholarship

by dedicating significant resources to education.

CNEWA provides $500,000 a year supporting some 50 educational institutions in Ethiopia.

The agency is one of the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School’s few consistent institutional supporters, giving

the school some $4,500 per year. The rest of the school’s $27,000

annual budget comes from a vast and varied base of individual contributors.

To find out how you can help

us make high-quality schools

available to those most in need,

call 1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).

Make their dream of a better future in Ethiopia a reality

“failure” had an excuse of sorts: The student was absent frequently to care for a handicapped sister. But stories such as Yohannes Yibeltal, 15, are more common. He hails from an even poorer part of Kachene than Netsanet Terefe, and the living conditions are shocking. The family of seven inhabits a dark, damp and dirty space in a room shared with another family but divided by a wall. At night, Yohannes’s blind grandmother and his youngest sister sleep on a bed at one end of the space; his mother, father and other sister sleep on the other bed at the opposite end of the room. Yohannes and his older brother sleep on the floor. Despite these arrangements, Yohannes graduated from Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School and is continuing his studies at the nearby Lazarist Catholic High School, where he has just finished the ninth grade. Should he maintain his high grade point average, he will be able achieve his dream of studying medicine at Addis Ababa University. “I want to be a doctor,” he says. “Many Ethiopians have contracted H.I.V. and when I am a doctor I can help those people.” His refrain is a very common one among all the students interviewed for this article. Without exception, they have ambitious, inspiring career goals and invariably they tie these goals back to the improvement of their own neighborhood. Poverty is just one of the cycles in which these children are trapped. Another related, but perhaps more pernicious cycle, is that of social stigma and marginalization. “The young living in poverty tend to have huge aspirations. But as they get older, they resolve these aspirations with the reality surrounding them,” says Dr. Alula Pan k h u r s t, E th io p ian co u n tr y director of Young Lives, a research project overseen by NGO Save the Children. The Young Lives project

charts the progress of a cohort of 3,000 young Ethiopians living in poverty. “In the end, girls often tend to opt for marriage and boys tend to lower their aspirations.” Access to education in Ethiopia has improved significantly in recent years, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. In 1996, only 21 percent of youths were enrolled in primary school nationally. This had increased to 83 percent in 2009. “Access to education has increased dramatically,” says Dr. Pankhurst, “but overall quality of education has dropped. Average class sizes have mushroomed and s tu d e n t- te ach e r r ati os ha v e decreased. So now, many children are being pushed through the system, but they come out of it without having learned enough.” Some of the structural obstacles will be mitigated over time, as the management model of many missionary projects transitions from foreign management to management by Ethiopian priests and nuns. The transition of management of the Atse Tekle Ghiorgis School from the Irish Sister Mary to the Ethiopian Sister Baleynesh is a prime example of the changes unfolding in missionary projects throughout the country. “As local people take leadership of these institutions, more lobbying and advocacy work needs to b e d o n e with th e E t hi op i a n government,” says Argaw Fantu, CNEWA’s regional director in Ethiopia, regarding the need to switch from dependence on foreign aid to self-sufficiency. “We need to figure out how to create partnerships with local authorities and how to exit the paradigm of dependency on foreign support.”


urrently, the government classifies all religious schools as private schools and denies them any financial or material support. Advocacy and partnerships


Students examine their report cards for their final grades and evaluations for the year.

with the government by groups such as the Daughters of Charity will enable the policy to become more nuanced and possibly unlock funding for schools like Atse Tekle Ghiorgis. But beyond structural obstacles, there remains much cultural prejudice in Ethiopia toward the poorest of the poor. “Social background comes into play,” Dr. Pankhurst says. “Connections and class status mean that despite increased education levels, there is still a high chance that cycles of poverty will be reproduced among marginalized groups.”

But Atse Tekle Ghiorgis at least offers hope that this will change — and h o p e is v e r y m u ch in evidenc e in e ar ly J u ly , o n graduation day. Children run around in uniform and with their parents in tow, waving report cards that carry their grades for the year. It is a foggy morning but Netsanet Terefe, wrapped in a purple shawl, is beaming, as is her father, who has accompanied her. Netsanet placed second in her class with a grade point average of 87. Next year will be her final year at the school and if her grades remain this high, she will continue on to high school with a scholarship. One woman, Atsede Gebretsadik — a first grade civics teacher and alumna of the school — surveys the graduation day hoopla in the schoolyard. Another school year is

ending. But the work, she knows, is far from finished. “Teaching is a really difficult profession because what you are doing is creating people’s minds,” she says. “It’s not just talk and chalk, it goes further — into the homes of these children. We realize that yes, we are poor, but we challenge this poverty with education.” Don Duncan covers events in the Middle East and Africa.

Read Don Duncan’s personal impressions of his trip to Ethiopia at our blog ONE-TO-ONE:

__ __ __ __ __ ethiopiaschool



Children in


War Letter from Syria:

Saving the Children of

A priest writes of CNEWA’s ‘lifeline of hope’ By Ziad Hilal, S.J.




n April 2011, the bloody events unfolding in Syria reached the city of Homs. The wall of hatred reached new heights every day, taking as its mortar every drop of blood spilled among the different groups within the same multicultural society. By the end of the year, the crisis had reached its peak with the pain of social upheaval and street fighting in each neighborhood. The screams of women and children echoed through the streets and carnage choked the heart of the city. For the first time in their lives, neighbors who used to live together became enemies fearing each other. Evil appeared in an unprecedented way. I remember how I used to visit different parts of the city on my bike, passing corpses and burnt cars to provide help to those in need. But beyond all expectation, hatred had taken root within this once-peaceful population. Thus, walking on the streets became a privilege for some, while others were denied this simple right. Criminals grew very active.


Syrian children wait behind the Turkish border fence as gunfire is exchanged just across the border.

ith the beginning of 2012, the humanitarian wo r k o f o u r J e s u it community — with CNEWA’s help — extended to many neighborhoods of the city, with a special focus on the old quarters that represent its historic heart. The majority of the cit y’s p o p u latio n was le ft unemployed and without income for several months, and the streets, w hich w e r e tr an s fo r m e d in to demarcation lines, became very dangerous — especially due to the presence of snipers. The majority of the inhabitants w er e in s h o r tag e o f b as ic mat erials — fo o d , g as , e tc. Accordingly, we decided to start with the 400 families in greatest need. We provided them with food and other basic necessities.

Soon after, a larger number of families sought our help as well. With our very limited sources of funding we were able to cover only the most urgent needs. Despite shortfalls, much of the lo cal p o p u latio n r e m aine d, determined to cope with these d if ficu lt co n d itio n s , hoping to weather the storm. By the end of January 2012, the wave of violence escalated, forcing the closure of all schools and shops in the city. The heavy shelling in residential areas forced families to flee their homes, leaving behind everything. The areas most affected were the old quarters of the city, where the majority of the Christian population was concentrated. All h o u s e s , s h o p s , s ch o o ls a nd churches were either destroyed by th e s h e llin g o r r an s ack e d. A t present, the evacuated quarters, which represent more than a third of the entire city’s area, have only about 70 remaining inhabitants — including a Dutch Jesuit, the Rev. Frans van der Lugt. The rage of violence spared neither mosques nor churches. Starting February 2012, we realized the new status quo was likely to persist and we had to deal with this new reality, assisting the thousands of families living in temporary shelters in the relatively safe areas of the city. Our first priority was to take care of the hundreds of children who transformed the streets into their only playground and school, putting them at the mercy of the snipers, the shelling and the street violence. I still remember one of the children hiding behind a wall and calling me to take cover from a sniper. The children of Homs became experts in the art of escaping violence, but unfortunately many were not as lucky as I was on that day, and they paid with their lives on the streets.



Recent events have deeply affected the children, and we have noticed changes through our follow-ups at school. When they play, they transform wooden boxes into imitation weapons and play war games, reflecting the reality th a t th e childr en ar e also internalizing the patterns of the war around them. Confronting this, we had to work hard to redirect the children to regular games, such as football and other sports. Most children live in a state of denial. They refuse to acknowledge their fears. Meanwhile, mothers report their children cannot sleep alone in a separate bed anymore, which speaks to their trauma. Some others report cases that required the assistance of a speech therapist and a psychologist to overcome communication troubles. At the same time, many youth have lost their jobs and their i n come, their gr eat pot ent ial going to waste. Thus, we decided to join both priorities in one project, aiming to take the children out of the streets and to provide jobs to the displaced youth. We started with one pilot project at S t. S a vior C onvent in t he Adawiyya quarter, where many



displaced families found refuge. The project consisted of gathering around 60 children in the convent and, with the help of the youth, pr ep ar in g s o m e e d u catio n al activities: theater, music and more. The children were from different religious groups, and the convent became a center for reconciliation — especially for the parents from all confessions, who were obliged to sit together to watch their children in a common activity. Soon after, two additional centers adopting the same model opened in other quarters where displaced families settled. At present the project enrolls more than 600 children. The centers were opened spontaneously without any legal pe r m it fr o m au th o r itie s an d therefore the only help received was from private donors and nongovernment organizations, such as CNEWA.


he Jesuit Refugees Service was the first supporter of this project, both morally and financially. With the beginning of the academic year 2012-2013, we decided to extend our activities and to provide the children with a curriculum similar to regular


A displaced Syrian student receives tutoring to make up for class time lost to the war.


Children gather in a makeshift classroom in the Al Waer neighborhood of Homs. schools in an attempt to save their academic year. Additional teachers were recruited and the curriculum was adapted to the needs of the children with the expertise of the Jesuit Fathers, who have no small experience in education. CNEWA provided the necessary supplies and winter clothing items for all students. Together with several Christian communities in the area, we have been able to screen and identify around 3,000 displaced families. CNEWA has helped us to support these families more than once — such as in April 2012, wh e n th e y p r o v id e d 3 , 0 0 0 packages of food. At the same time, in the area of Wadi al Nasarah (“the Valley of Christians”), some 40 miles from Homs, more than 2,000 Christian

displaced families also sought refuge. The existing public schools in the area could not absorb the large number of displaced students, and as a result more than 450 s t u d en ts of dif fer ent grades were without schooling. Galvanized by our successes in Homs, we teamed up with the Paulist Fathers in the village of Marmarita, who had previously completed the construction of a primary school, but had not yet r ec ei ved th e per mit fr om t he government to start enrolling students. Due to the emergency situation, the rector of the convent opened the school without permit, and the Jesuit Fathers provided the necessary expertise and curriculum. By early November 2012, the school provided education to 450

students and job opportunities to around 45 teachers. Once again, CNEWA was an important source of support, providing books and educational material to the students and emergency aid to their families. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the people most affected by the war in Syria are children with special needs; their situation has deteriorated substantially. The ravages of war have destroyed two centers for handicapped children located in downtown Homs. Both cent ers o p e r ate d u n d e r th e administration of the Jesuit Fathers and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In response, we opened two centers in safe areas to shelter these vulnerable children. The first center has enrolled 30 children at St. Savior Convent. The second is located at

the Maronite convent outside of Homs. Both centers provide the children with necessary supervision in addition to therapeutic sessions and a hot meal every day.


ur mission has not been easy. At first, we had planned to work on a limited scale and within a limited period of time not exceeding three months, after which we had hoped that the war would have ended and the displaced would return to their h o m e s . H o we v e r, th e s h e e r magnitude of destruction and the increasing needs of those displaced have made such plans impossible. Caring for more than 3,000 displaced families and providing support to 2,000 children who need continuous care on all levels is



Many families told us during our regular visits ‘The church is all that we have now, and without you we will sink in a sea of despair.’ indescribably heavy. And until now, few organizations have assisted us with our mission. I still remember how CNEWA took the initiative at the beginning of the harsh winter and provided 1,000 families with winter kits to help the children in our schools survive the cold and the poor housing conditions. We have had some difficult cases of children who have lost one or both of their parents. One such child is a 12-year-old whom I will call “Rita.” Her father was shot in

the head and has been in a coma since last year; her mother had a nervous breakdown and is being treated in a specialized center. Rita is currently living with her aunt, who is also displaced. Rita refuses to go back to school and she isolates herself from the world. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, along with a psychologist, are trying to support her morally and to assist her in her studies at home. However, she has thus far rejected these efforts to help her.

Your gift today can make a difference tomorrow

Send emergency relief to the people of Syria

Maybe our efforts will not be enough to satisfy the huge needs of the displaced families and to relieve their suffering. But what we are trying to do is simply shine a small spot of light on the shadow of violence. Pope Francis has said: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope!” Despite the fact we live among our people and we feel their suffering — and at the same time we know our capability to help is limited compared to the needs — I strongly believe we should be consistent in providing hope through opening our churches, our convents and our hearts to every person and live in solidarity with our people. Many families told us during our regular visits: “The church is all that we have now, and without you we will sink in a sea of despair and spiritual hell.” As a priest, I would like to say our role as a church is to push people toward hope, which should never be abandoned — no matter how unbearable circumstances may seem. Hope is what CNEWA has helped us provide. I believe it has been a lifeline from God — helping us and guiding our efforts to glorify the name of the Lord.

Ziad Hilal is a Jesuit priest and director of St. Savior Center for Education in Homs, Syria.

The CNEWAConnection

CNEWA has been offering practical assistance and support for Syrian refugees since the civil war began in 2011.

• 350 displaced families in Al Hassake were provided food packages • 1,000 families isolated in the war zones have been fed

Programs supported by CNEWA have given priority to vulnerable families who have not settled in refugee camps or registered with the United Nations or Red Crescent and thus are not receiving aid. Most of these displaced persons are Christian.

• 1,850 displaced families in Damascus were sent shipments of food, milk and other supplies

During the past 14 months alone, with the support of various international partners, CNEWA has been able to reach more than 11,152 displaced Syrian families — among them thousands of children — through the infrastructure of the local church.

• In Lebanon, around 1,700 displaced families received food and daily necessities

• In Aleppo, some 1,452 families received packages of food

• In Jordan, some 400 refugee families have received basic household supplies, and children participated in a summer camp and received emergency health care

The generosity of CNEWA’s donors has been a lifeline to thousands:

To learn more on how you can provide urgently needed emergency aid to this troubled corner of the world, call 1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).

• 4,800 displaced families in the area of western Homs and Wadi al Nasara (“Valley of Christians”) have received food and other essentials — hygiene products, winter kits, etc. — in addition to school supplies for around 1,480 displaced students

Visit our website at or (Canada).



Children in


Reaching the

Young 'Untouchables' In India, a home for boys sparks a quiet revolution By Jose Kavi 20



It could be any traditional house in Kerala: an unremarkable single-story building with a slanted, tiled roof and narrow veranda. Scarlet flowers fall from a nearby flame tree, drifting past an open gate leading to the front door. For dozens of young people, that door is an entryway to more than just a house. A sign in English and Malayalam, the local language, says it is the “Malankara Boys’ Home.” This is a place of possibility. A low building in the front houses a library, sick room, kitchen, pantry, work area and classroom. A path paved with red and black tiles, chipped and broken in places, leads to a four-story building where children study, sleep and play. Between the two buildings — each in need of fresh paint — lies a small lawn with a statue of the Virgin Mary inside a large lotus, the national flower of India, fashioned out of concrete. Here, children pray before going to school. In this home in 1996, the SyroMalankara Catholic Archeparchy of Trivandrum began a plan to deliver children from a vicious circle of poverty, squalor and despair. Seventeen years later, the Malankara Boys’ Home counts more than 175 extraordinary young men as success stories, part of a growing effort to spark a quiet social revolution among southern India’s Dalits. Dalit, a Sanskrit term, denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of birth. Although Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalit “harijan” (children of God),

a priest of the archeparchy who started the home and guided its first seven years. It is a hope that is slowly but perceptibly changing the lives of some of Kerala’s young people most in need.


“Our children have brought hope to those who are dismissed.” and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those people once identified as untouchable continue to lag behind socially and economically. But, thanks in part to Malankara Boys’ Home, that is beginning to change. “Our children have brought hope to those who are dismissed as social scum,” says the Rev. Jose Kizhakedath,

t all began with priests who were appalled by what they saw in Dalit enclaves, or co lo n ie s , in th e arch e p arc hy . Dalits make up about 10 percent of the Syro-Malankara Archeparchy of Trivandrum’s 220,000 Catholics, many of them converts from decades of intense missionary activity in the region. As the number of Catholic Dalits grew, the archeparchy decided to open several parishes for them — mostly in the farflung and remote areas in which they lived, explains the Rev. Varghese Kodithara, who took over as the home’s director in early 2013. But when priests arrived to work at the parishes, what they saw of the Dalit way of life shocked them. Most of the homes were singleroom huts surrounded by open sewers and with no running water or latrines. In many families, parents slept in the same room with the children. “It was worse when the fathers were alcoholics,” says the Rev. Mathew Kadakampalli, who has spent his half-century as a priest living and ministering among Dalit people. The priest says children from these families often drop out of school after the third or fourth grade.


Eighth-grader E. M. Ebin, a resident of the Malankara Boys’ Home, takes a break from studying.



The CNEWAConnection

CNEWA’s close relationship with

the churches of the East places the agency in a unique position to respond to the needs of the communities it serves.

Through the Archeparchy of

Trivandrum in India, CNEWA was among the first to help fund the

Malankara Boys’ Home, providing

support since the project’s founding

in 1996. The generosity of CNEWA’s donors has been a consistent boon for the home, according to its

founder. “It pays for the children’s education, uniforms and food,” says Father Kizhakedath.

The Malankara Boys’ Home is

only one example of the many

institutions CNEWA is privileged to assist. To learn how you can

help us to provide ground-level support to the churches and peoples of the East, call

1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).

“They get jobs in restaurants and other places, but soon take to drinking, drugs and bad habits that eventually ruin them,” he explains, adding that many also join gangs. Most parents, who themselves have little education, earn barely enough to feed their families. And in those cases where fathers spend most of their earnings on alcohol, starvation and malnutrition prevail.



“You understand this drudgery only when you work in those missions,” Father Kadakampalli says. Any change, he adds, could happen only through good education and not by doling out money. The priests also realized the futility of opening schools near the enclaves that would keep the children in the same environment. “To recover such people, a place like the boys home was needed,” says Father Kadakampalli, who bought the parcel of land where the boys’ home is located. Father Kizhakedath added another plot of land after the establishment of the home. Father Kizhakedath says the priests devised a plan in which they would take one or two boys from the colonies, starting at age 10, and put them up in “a family atmosphere” to help them study and develop their talents.

The priests drew their inspiration from their late major archbishop, Cyril Mar Baselios, who had successfully implemented a similar plan among tribal people in northern Kerala before he became the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. He envisioned assisting certain children in becoming role models for their families and neighbors. Over the last 17 years, that is exactly what has happened at the Malankara Boys’ Home. “The changes are quite evident in our Dalit parishes,” Father Kizhakedath says. Graduates are active and many now teach classes in their parishes. Some have been able to move to better homes or have built new houses entirely. The priest cites the example of a boy named Saju. “When he came to us he was in the fifth grade but

did not know how to write or read,” he recalls. But the discipline and support transformed him. A bright student, by the 10th grade Saju was scoring near-perfect marks on his exams. Seeing the changes in Saju, the boy’s father was motivated to stop drinking. Eventually, he was able to build a new house and took an active role in educating his younger children. Saju himself now works as a computer engineer in Dubai. “The atmosphere in the family changed,” Father Kizhakedath says, and soon others took notice. “Seeing them, their neighbors also started sending their children to school.”


ather Kizhakedath admits that not every child who walks through his front door thrives. Some of the children are unable or unwilling to adapt to the

environment, and some leave. However, he is proud of those he could reach, pointing to young people such as Lijo Joy, a 22-yearold young man who still considers the priest his mentor. “Here is one of our success stories,” Father Kizhakedath says proudly, during a visit with Lijo. Lijo’s father was diagnosed with AIDS when the boy was in second grade. Ou t o f d e s p air, h e committed suicide. By the time young Lijo arrived at the home nearly a decade later, the boy was deeply troubled. “I was depressed,” Lijo admits. “But Father Kizhakedath and others spent lots of time counseling me.” Lijo says he might have turned to substance abuse or crime if Father Kizhakedath had not helped him. Although the Malankara Boys’ Home admits boys only up to the 10th grade, the priest relaxed the rules for Lijo. “He allowed me to stay in the home and prepare for the


Each day the boys pause on the lawn to pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary before going to school.

two-year senior secondary school course,” he explains. In return, the teenager had agreed to work at the home doing chores. All that, he says, ultimately helped prepare him for life. His depression lifted. He found purpose and direction. Another young man who found new focus is Saju Kumar, who spent four years at the home — up to the completion of 10th grade in 2002. “Hardly any of my childhood friends have completed high school,” he says. Lacking ambition and hope, many of them now spend what little they earn on alcohol, he adds. Mr. Kumar says the Malankara Boys’ Home has taught him the value of hard work. “It also instilled in me a spirituality that keeps God as the center of all my activities and a sense of social responsibility to help those less fortunate,” he says. The 26-year-old is now a social worker at an addiction center.


Following a rigorous schedule, the Malankara Boys’ Home serves breakfast soon after the house rises at 5:30.



Keep hope alive among the young people of India

of the local parish. They take part in parish activities, attend catechism classes, join organizations and assist as altar servers. Such experience is even leading to vocations. Two older boys have entered the seminary; one is studying to be a priest for the archeparchy and another has joined the Bethany Fathers, a monastic community of the Syro-Malankara Church.


For having helped him change his life, he now plans to support the boys’ home in whatever way he can, so it can “continue to serve more people like me.”


lthough he is no longer in charge of the home, Father Kizhakedath continues to raise money for it, enabling his suc c essors t o focus on t he c hi l dr en. Fat her Mat hew Charuvukalayil, who joined the establishment four years ago and now assists the director, says children still arrive with obstacles to overcome. “Some come with a desire to study, but the rest are really confused.” In most cases, he notes, it is the mother who brings the boy; often, the father is preoccupied with an addiction. “The mother wants her son to escape the fate of his father and friends,” says the priest.



In light of their removal from their familiar setting, the priority is to provide the children “a real family atmosphere.” Helping the priest in this is a married couple, Shobhana and Joseph Lalibhawan, who serve as the home’s cook and gardener, and who also act as surrogate parents for all the boys. “The boys go to them whenever they require something. They treat them as if they were their own children,” Father Charuvukalayil says. Shobhana came to the home five years ago and her husband Joseph joined her two years later, after their own children were grown. Joseph, who had worked earlier as a catechist in Dalit missions, says he and his wife closely observe the children and offer them timely advice and guidance. Father Charuvukalayil says they organize regular talks on values, ethics and social behavior. The children also participate in the life

he home is steeped in Christian values and Catholic teaching. But as with much of Indian society, it dwells side by side with other faiths — literally. The home is located between two family homes, one Hindu the other, Muslim. D. Vijaya Kumaran, the Hindu neighbor, and Nazim Ibrahim, the Muslim neighbor, have been associated with the home from the beginning, with Mr. Kumaran’s two sons and Mr. Ibrahim serving as tutors for the boys. Mr. Kumaran, a retired bureaucrat, describes the Malankara Boys’ Home as “one of the best institutions in the area.” Mr. Ibrahim, a Kerala State Transport Corporation official, hails it as a “model” for those trying to help the poorest of the poor. Mr. Kumaran says he has seen an amazing transformation in the home’s children. “When they first arrive, they are timid and withdrawn,” he says, noting that such behavior is to some extent culturally instilled in people coming from backgrounds with lower social standing. “But by the time they leave, they are ready to face any challenge in life,” the 69-year-old upper-caste Hindu explains. He commends the home’s priests for giving individual attention to the children. Through tutoring the children, Mr. Ibrahim has become well acquainted with the environment. “To be honest, I am jealous of these children,” he says, noting that the home provides them with “good food, good sleeping facilities and

every type of entertainment” that even his middle-class family could not afford when he was a teenager. The two neighbors say one sure sign of the Malankara Boys’ Home’s vitality and importance to the community is something you do not notice until summer vacation. The village, they admit, becomes quiet when the children are away. “They are the life of this area,” Mr. Ibrahim says.


his year, 11 boys are attending high school, which is made up of grades eight to ten. The rest are in upper primary school, grades five to seven. The boys today follow almost the same routine Father Kizhakedath devised nearly two decades ago, a schedule designed to instill discipline and order in boys who may have known little of either. Their day begins as early as 5:30, and follows a regimen of study,

morning prayer and breakfast. The dining hall has four tables and eight benches for the children, while priests and guests sit on plastic chairs at a corner table. After each meal, the children come to Father Kodithara to show their empty plates. “We continue this practice for some time until they learn not to waste food,” he explains. The rest of the day consists of prayer and study. Evenings include tea, games and homework before going to bed no later than 10. This strict routine has helped the boys to excel. “They are in the forefront of all school activities,” says I.R. Leena, a teacher in the upper primary school. According to her, the students from the boys’ home are “so clean and disciplined” that “nobody would believe they are from very poor families.” Surveying the achievements of Malankara Boys’ Home over the last 17 years, Father Kizhakedath knows

there is still more work to be done — that the home’s mission is far from finished. “It would take 50 years or more for our plan to impact society fully,” he says. But thanks to the support of CNEWA’s benefactors, he continues to hold out hope that his vision will be realized, and that more boys will walk through that open gate in Kerala, finding their way to a future that once seemed untouchable. Jose Kalvi writes about social and religious issues in India from New Delhi.


Former students V. S. Manikuttan, right, and Saju Kumar,seated left, offer words of encouragement to newcomers to the home who are still adjusting to the change of environment.




concerning the world of CNEWA

cumenis e m an exchange of gifts that leads to the whole truth by

E lias D. M allon , S.A., P h .D.


he March election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as bishop of Rome has opened a new chapter on ecumenism in the Catholic Church — a chapter that is part of a long story that dates to the early centuries of the Christian faith. The situation of Christianity in its present state of division is complex, with each division having its own theological, historical and cultural causes. The early ecumenical councils were called by the Roman emperors, then enthroned in Constantinople, to heal the divisions in the church that surfaced after Emperor Constantine ended Rome’s persecution of Christians. The councils may have achieved some consensus among Christians, but often these councils — and the manner of their implementation — deepened divisions that remain today. Those who rejected Ephesus in 431, for example, found refuge in



the Church of the East, while opponents of Chalcedon in 451 formed the Oriental Orthodox family of churches. The gradual divorce of the “Catholic” church of Rome from the “Orthodox” churches of C on s tan tin o p le , Ale x an d r ia, Antioch and Jerusalem became more definitive after the mutual excommunication of the pope in Rome and the patriarch in Constantinople in 1054. The Reformation of the 16th century shattered the Catholic unity of Western Europe, a process that continues to this day. Search for unity. Yet even as these schisms deepened, awareness grew among some Christian leaders that division among them was wrong. Throughout the modern era, Anglican prelates approached Orthodox patriarchs and Orthodox clerics approached Catholic bishops,

seeking dialogue, consensus and even unity. The ecumenical movement — from the Greek oikoumene, meaning “the whole, inhabited world” — began in the early 20th century when Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants alike began to pray for the unity of Christ’s followers. The observance of the Church Unity Octave, later to become the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was one of the early responses to this growing feeling. Began in 1908 by the Rev. Paul Wattson, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, the Church Unity Octave was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. At the same time theologians, largely in France, reflected on and wrote about the importance of the unity of Christians. The work and prayers of so many have borne fruit. In 1960, Pope John XXIII set up the Secretariat for

Promoting Christian Unity to assist in the preparations for an upcoming council the pope had called, he said, to open the windows of the church to let in some fresh air. He invited members of different Orthodox churches and Protestant communities as observers to the Second Vatican Council, during which the council fathers pressed for openness to dialogue, taking a clear stand for Christian unity in the post-Vatican II church. “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council,” reads the opening paragraph in the council’s “Decree on Ecumenism,” proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1964. “Christ the Lord founded one church and one church only. However, many C hrist ian communions present themselves … as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of

the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.” With the decree, the Catholic Church made ecumenism an integral and irrevocable part of its mission. This was something entirely new — and a sign of the church’s practical commitment to Christian unity. Thirty years later, Pope John Paul II affirmed this in his encyclical, “Ut Unum Sint.” “It is absolutely clear that ecumenis m , th e m o v e m e n t promoting Christian Unity, is not just some sort of ‘appendix’ [the Holy Father’s emphasis] that is added to the church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently, must pervade all she is and does.”


Pope Francis leads a meeting with religious leaders at the Vatican on 20 March, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain delegations.

In 1967, Paul VI took another step to underscore the importance o f e cu m e n is m , m ak in g t he Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity an office of the Roman Curia charged with engaging in dialogue with other Christians and promoting Christian unity. In March 1989, John Paul II restructured the curia and r e n am e d th e s e cr e tar iat t he Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The council maintains official international theological dialogues with the various Orthodox churches and Protestant communities. Though the official dialogues of the Catholic Church take place under the



The CNEWAConnection


concerning the world of CNEWA

Since its foundation in 1926,

CNEWA has been engaged in

“the dialogue of charity,” that aspect of ecumenism necessary for fruitful dialogue. Working in areas where Catholics — indeed all Christians

— are a minority, CNEWA has been engaged with Muslims, Hindus and Jews, as well as non-Catholic

Eastern Christians. In these areas, CNEWA and its partners work

together with people of faith to

overcome poverty, disease and human suffering.

Responding to the call of seven

popes since 1926, the CNEWA family has not only provided

material help, but participated in an “exchange of spiritual gifts” with the poor and suffering, be they Catholic or not.

To learn how you can help

CNEWA’s efforts to promote

Christian unity by supporting your brothers and sisters in need, call

call 1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).

auspices of the council, local and regional ecumenical efforts take place all over the world. For ex a mpl e, nat ional episcopal conferences have an office for ecumenical and interreligious affairs. In some countries, the Catholic Church is a full member of the respective national council of churches, while in most dioceses, an ecumenical officer is charged



with deepening relationships with other Christian communities. The Catholic Church also enjoys a close relationship to the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.) in Geneva, to which 349 different Orthodox churches and Protestant denominations belong. Though not a member of this council, the Catholic Church is a full member of the W.C.C.’s Faith and Order Commission and holds a place on its Standing Commission. Every year a joint committee from the Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity meets to prepare the theme, texts and prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Thus, the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church operates on several levels. Toward unity. On 7 December 1965, as the council was drawing to a close, Paul VI and Ecumenical Patr iarch Ath e n ag o r as of Constantinople, Orthodoxy’s “first am o n g e q u als ,” is s u e d a j o in t declaration that, among other t hi n g s , r e s cin d e d th e m u tu al excommunications of the year 1054. Though the declaration has not solved all the problems between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, nor has it restored full communion between them, it remains a powerful symbol of the desire of both churches to overcome more than a thousand years of division. Every 29 June, a delegation from the ecumenical patriarchate observes the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, at celebrations in the Eternal City. Likewise, a delegation from the Holy See takes part in ceremonies in Constantinople (Istanbul) marking the feast of St. Andrew, the founder of the Byzantine church, every 30 November. The Catholic Church has also engaged in a productive dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which include the

Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic and Syriac churches. In 1988, for example, the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church signed a Statement of Christological Agreement that removed many of the theological differences that had existed between the two churches since the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Christological understandings with the Armenian Apostolic and the Syriac Orthodox churches have


Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I shake hands as they meet atop the Mount of Olives in January 1964 — the first such meeting between the heads of the Catholic and Orthodox churches in more than 500 years.

z ABOVE RIGHT Pope John Paul II and Church of the East Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV exchange gifts after signing a historic Christological agreement on 11 November 1994.

also been reached while relations with the other Oriental Orthodox churches have improved. In 2001, John Paul II and Mar Dinkha IV, catholicos-patriarch of the Church of the East, issued a set of guidelines for admission to the Eucharist between the Catholic Chaldean Church and the Church of the East. Though full and perfect communion does not yet exist between the two — which have been separated since the Council of Ephesus in 431 — the guidelines provide for limited eucharistic sharing between believers of both c ommu n i ti es. This follow s developments between the two churches ending the relative isolation of the Church of the East since the fifth century. Urgency of dialogue. It has been almost 50 years since the publication of the Decree on Ecumenism. It would be a mistake to underestimate the tremendous progress that has been made as Christians come to a deeper understanding of what we believe as we work toward the unity willed by Christ. That is not, however, a call to self-satisfaction. As recently as the General Audience of 18 January 2012, the first day of the Week of Prayer for

Christian Unity, Pope Benedict XVI said “the ecumenical task is a responsibility of the entire church and of all the baptized.” He recognized that “since the birth of the ecumenical movement more than a century ago, there has always been a clear awareness that the lack of unity among Christians is an obstacle to a more effective proclamation of the Gospel.” But, the pope added: “The fundamental truths of the faith unite us more than they divide us.” A long and challenging road lies ahead to complete Christian unity. But it is a road Pope Francis seems eager to travel. In addressing the delegation of the ecumenical patriarchate in Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in late June, Pope Francis stressed that “the search for unity among Christians is an urgent task — you have said that ‘it is not a luxury, but an imperative’ — that, today more than ever, we cannot put aside.” In this regard, the pope commented on the significance of “being able to reflect together in truth and charity … starting from what we have in common without, however, concealing that which still separates us.” He also stressed: “This is not a theoretical exercise:

it demands in-depth knowledge of one another’s traditions in order to understand them and sometimes also to learn from them. “It comforts me,” Francis said, “knowing that Catholics and Or th o d o x s h ar e th e s a m e conception of dialogue … based on the deepening of the truth that Christ has given to his church and that we, moved by the Holy Spirit, never cease to understand better. This is why we should not be afraid of encounter and true dialogue. It does not distance us from the truth but rather, through an exchange of gifts, leads us, under the guidance of the Spirit of truth, to the whole truth.” Rev. Elias Mallon is a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement and CNEWA’s external affairs officer. He has written extensively about ecumenism and the Middle East. Watch a video of Father Elias discussing the Friars of the Atonement and their work with ecumenism at:

u web/392b



Light of the





Preserving an ancient tradition in Bethlehem By Nicholas Seeley


n a cave-like basement a short walk from Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, nine students huddle over Formica tables, patiently practicing their brushwork.

The bearded face of Christ takes shape in burnt sienna on a dozen sheets of white paper: a dozen variations with a dozen irregular sets of features. Some of the students are established artists, others have little or no artistic training, but this new craft is a challenge for all of them. They work through mistakes and false starts, scowling and sighing in frustration. The instructor is patient, demonstrating the basics again and again — how to draw a line with a brush, how to mix the paint, how to find a face in a sheet of white. “Move the paper so it’s easier to draw,” he explains. “Work to your strengths, and know your weaknesses — which is a good spiritual principle! Because what you’re doing is learning spiritual life, really — in a very practical way.”




Iconographer Ian Knowles works on a new icon for the shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain, in Anjara, depicting the risen Christ surrounded by scenes from his life.

The teacher is Ian Knowles, a British iconographer who has been working in churches and convents in the Holy Land since 2008. As an artist, he creates extraordinary, vivid images. Though hewing fast to traditional styles and techniques, his pieces can feel strikingly modern, alive with spiritual purpose. It is this, as much as brushwork and technique, that he is attempting to pass along to his students. “The purpose of the icon is prayer,” he says. “What you need as you paint Christ is to be with him, to experience him.” Slowly, in a few places, the holy countenance begins to come to life on paper. It is October 2012, and this is the first class of the Bethlehem Icon Center, an initiative to train students from Palestine in the ancient art of iconography. I t is a p r o j e c t at o n ce m o d e s t an d ambitious. The classes ar e s m all an d th e cu r r icu lu m , h ig h ly s p e cific. Bu t b y h e lp in g s tu d e n ts reach a high level of craftsmanship, the center’s founders h o p e to cr e ate something lasting and profound: not just the seed of a local craft industry, but an expression of the Holy Land’s an cie n t Ch r is tian culture and its role in the development of Christian art. “E m p o we r in g lo cal Christians, finding a way for them to rediscover their artistic, religious tradition in a very specific way — that’s exciting,” says the Rev. Timothy Lowe, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America and the rector of the Ta n t u r Ecumenical Institute, which is

a partner of the center, along with Mr. Knowles. The first students are an ecumenical bunch; their number includes two Coptic Orthodox nuns, four students from the Greek Orthodox Church, two from the Syriac Orthodox Church and two Latin Catholics. Half of them are women. The project has already drawn significant support from the community — a temporary classroom has been provided by Bethlehem University in the basement of its Brother Vincent Malham Center, just off Manger Square. The school’s episcopal patron is Me lk ite G r e e k Cath ol i c Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey. “I would like, if I were younger, to be a student,” says the archbishop. The school, he says, will help remedy a lack of trained icon writers in one of Christianity’s holiest places. And it may also mitigate one of the area’s other problems — a lack of jobs. “Many young people here, they have no work,” he says, “and many people, they love the icons very much. It’s a service to the city of Bethlehem.”


wo forces shape modern Bethlehem: occupation and tourism. Its geography is defined on the one hand by Israel’s separation wall, which almost entirely encircles the town, and on the other by the movements of the huge tour buses that support the town’s main industry. The main street is dominated by cavernous restaurants, designed to serve large tour groups at carefully scheduled intervals. Alongside these sit equally massive souvenir shops, selling figures carved of olive wood, jewelry and rosaries, postcards and baseball caps and other souvenirs — and, of course, icons. In shop after shop, the shelves are lined with mass-produced images of religious figures. Some are printed on canvas and mounted on wood, with highlights in gold paint.




In the Bethlehem Icon Center’s temporary classroom at Bethlehem University, students watch as Mr. Knowles demonstrates the steps involved in painting an icon of the face of Christ, also known as the Mandylion.

Others are just cheap prints pasted on chipboard, sheathed in silver or gold or electroplated tin. Even the lowest quality likeness can be priced at $70 or more — though that can vary wildly. The buses stop and disgorge their cargo of visitors for half an hour of commerce; there is virtually no walk-in business, and no comparison shopping. Different stores offer similar goods at radically different prices — whatever the market will bear. A few go to extremes: In one shop, tiny chunks of hematite and quartz — the kind children buy in science museums for $2 — are selling for $26.50, and a small string of malachite beads is marked at $500. There is also a thriving trade in antiques, primarily 19th-century Russian icons painted on wood, which sell for thousands of dollars. Most of them were brought by the waves of Soviet immigrants who came to Israel beginning in the 1970’s. Unable to bring cash out of the Soviet Union, they would store their wealth in these antique icons, says Abu Issa, the antiques expert in one shop situated near the checkpoint marking the end of Bethlehem’s main street. From his desk, Abu Issa produces the ledger where he records sales. Most of his icons are priced from $3,000 to $5,000 — but they move quickly. Dates are added in red pen next to pieces that have sold; there are dozens from the past month alone. The cheaper, mass-produced icons that line the shelves in the front of the shop move even better, Abu Issa says. The ones in his store




mpowering local for them to rediscover tradition in a very specific come from a factory his family has set up in neighboring Beit Sahour. Other shopkeepers say they import theirs from Greece or Russia. Wh at is m is s in g in th is flourishing market is the middle: hand-crafted pieces made by local artisans. A couple of shops have a few stashed somewhere — created by nuns in one of the area’s many monasteries or by enterprising amateurs. But there is little sense there can really be a market for them. The quality is poor. Most are cartoonish efforts in garish acrylic, or imitation antiques. Shopkeepers specializing in the art of the rip-off try to sell them at aggressively high prices; the honest ones do not even try. Shopkeepers see little value in local artists’ work, so they generally

do not buy it — or if they do, they offer the artist a pittance. Several of the icon school’s students have tried working as iconographers, and have occasionally sold pieces to local shops. They say they may get $200 for a piece that took two or three weeks’ work to produce; the shop will then price it at $1,500 or more. More likely, it will sit unsold. The low prices and infrequent retail sales mean there is little work for artists, or incentive for them to develop their craft. The economic goal of the Bethlehem Icon Center is to break this cycle. The center is licensed to teach, but it is not a degree-granting institution. Its three-year program with two eight-week semesters per year is more like a professional training center or group apprenticeship.

Lowe. Future visitors to Christ’s birthplace, he hopes, will find more than a mass-produced icon to hang o n th e ir wall, b u t a g e n ui ne e n co u n te r with th e Ch r ist i a n community of Bethlehem.


Christians, finding a way their artistic, religious way—that ’s exciting.” F u n d ed by donat ions, it is v i r tu a l l y f r ee to t he st udent s, though most still have to hold other jobs. The classes are intensive weekend seminars, starting with basic skills — geometry, drawing, painting and paint-making. Mr. Knowles puts great emphasis on using only natural materials and pigments in icons, such as wood, hide glue, gold and egg tempera. “Iconography must be an ethical art,” he says, “starting with the materials it uses.” Later classes include more esoteric subjects like gilding and wall painting. In between sessions, students are expected to practice and hone their skills on their own. In some ways, the school resembles an ambitious internet start-up. The partners forge ahead,

raising money mostly from private donors to keep the classes going for another year, then two. At the moment, they struggle to find a dedicated space for the school. The rooms provided by Bethlehem University have been a blessing. But since October the students have progressed quickly, moving from drawing to painting, and the space is getting too small. In the autumn, the school is planning its first show to display the students’ progress and to raise awareness of the center and its mission. “There’s a whole spiritual component — engaging people in what’s going on here, and producing something and passing it on, making connections between the masses of pilgrims who come here and the local people,” says Father

learly, the center’s success will depend on the students’ motivation. For the young men and women in the first class, what drives them is a complex mixture of religious devotion, local pride and commercial aspiration. “Drawing [was] a hobby for me,” says Linda Nissan, another student. “But I love Jesus, I love the Virgin Mary. I love the saints, the way of their lives. So I would like to paint them.” Nissan has been trying to create icons professionally for five or six years, and has faced the challenges of low prices and few buyers. She sees the center and its program as a way to really develop her skills, and also to get a fair price for her work. For Mother Maria and Sister Esther of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Mary in Bethlehem, creating icons is a devotional task. “It’s monastic work. It fits with the monastic life,” Sister Esther says. “When people come to the monastery and want us to make an icon, we want to do something good.” At the same time, both sisters have also made icons before, and described similar frustrations to Ms. Nissan when trying to sell them in the local market. For them, the class also represents a path to professionalism, a way to develop their work into something that can support their convent. Studying at the center has forced them to go back to basics, to brushwork and anatomy and geometry — but it is a necessity they have embraced. Many of the students also assist in the administration of the school. The sisters do it by going to Jerusalem, which many of the students do not have the proper papers to visit.



There, they can buy brushes and other professional materials that are not available in Bethlehem. Joudeh Facouseh actually lives in Jerusalem, but travels to Bethlehem on weekends for the class — a long j our ney that r equir es passing through several checkpoints. As a child, he says, he was fascinated by the icons in the ancient churches all around him, particularly those in the Church of the Nativity. He could see their beauty through age and use and years of candle smoke. When one of his parish priests told him that, in addition to Greek and Roman icons, there had once been icons made in Palestine, he was hooked. At 19, Mr. Facouseh is one of the youngest students. He is preparing to begin studying at Hebrew Un i ver si ty for a degr ee in psychology and religion. However, he radiates passion when he describes his hopes that the icon center will develop an iconography that is distinctly Palestinian, build a name and become internationally recognized as a center of the art. “I’m not looking at this as a hobby,” he says. “Basketball and other sports are hobbies, but not writing the icons. I’m looking to be a professional, and I’m expecting a

lot from this school. We’re not doing something that everybody does; and it’s special.” What he articulates is the combination of spirituality and secular aspiration that drives the students — the desire for a craft, for a career that is rooted in their faith and their homeland. To be a professional iconographer would be to create for himself a new kind of id e n tity as a P ale s tin ian Christian, a selfhood founded in worship and craftsmanship that connects him in a new and special way to his home, his history and his community.


t a ceremony to bless the icons, Archbishop JosephJules delivers a powerful homily about what icons mean to him and his vocation. “One day, my bishop, the one who made me priest ... he was saying how much we have to venerate the icons. Because we also find in the icons all the breath, le soufflé, de nos parents et grandparents — our ancestors, who for many years were kissing these icons. So the presence of the icon, in our church and our life, also puts us in real communion with all the saints before us, and also our dear

Help keep the Holy Land holy

Support CNEWA in the Holy Land 34 ONEMAGAZINEHOME.ORG

parents who from them received the holy baptism.” Mr. Knowles, too, waxes rhapsodic wh e n d e s cr ib in g h ow i c ons continue to fascinate Christians after so many centuries. “It’s a profoundly spiritual art. It’s not a secular art about a spiritual theme; this is actually in some ways an embodiment of Christian culture. ... It’s a bit like a relic: You actually touch God, in a way — not because of what it looks like, but because of the thing itself. The whole process by which it’s created and made and fashioned and worked is within a profoundly religious context, so it sort of incarnates it.” I co n s ar e n o t th ings t o be worshiped, he emphasizes, but the act of worship itself ­— prayers in paint. The origins of Christian icon writing have been obscured both by time and by the deliberate destruction of icons over centuries, as debate raged in the church over whether it was appropriate to portray Christ or the saints at all. (Judaism and Islam, in varying degrees, have adopted a position of “aniconism,” forbidding the representation of divine subjects.) The style of painting used for icons has ancient roots, influenced b y im ag e s p r o d u ce d i n t he Hellenistic and Roman cultures of the eastern Mediterranean. But iconography itself, the distinctly Christian, incarnational art that Mr. Knowles describes, arose and flourished some time during the early Byzantine period, after the Roman Empire embraced Christianity. Ian Knowles believes the first true icons were more likely created in the monasteries of the Holy Land, which for about 200 years before the Muslim conquest was a center of Byzantine commerce, spirituality, pilgrimage and art. For his students, the idea that ancient Palestine could have contributed to such a central and

enduring element of Christian tradition is a powerful one, which bolsters their sense of belonging and community. At a time when the number of Christians in the Middle East is shrinking, and many Christian communities are feeling increasingly isolated and divided about their heritage, the positive effects of reinvigorating an ancient tradition should not be underestimated. Of course, no one expects the Bethlehem Icon Center to revolutionize the lives of Middle East Christians. It is a modest initiative, trying to bring a number of spiritual and social benefits to a small and economically struggling town. “Whatever its impact, it will be slow, and it will just have to grow s l owl y, ” sa ys Tant ur’s Fat her Timothy Lowe. But, he adds, simple projects with modest goals are often the most effective. “I don’t know how to explain the power of an image, if it’s done correctly, to engage people. That brings with it a whole different kind of spiritual renewal and encounter. And like everything else, you never know what effects it has on people at a given time and place. “Whatever causes any kind of renewal on a grassroots level, it elevates,” he says. “It will help, it will interact — who knows? — in ways that can’t be recorded. But it has an effect.”

Nicholas Seeley covers events in the Middle East. Read Nicholas Seeley’s reflections on the icon school at our blog, ONE-TO-ONE: iconschool

__ __ __ __ __

Icons: Theology in Color by Michael J.L. La Civita

In May 1995, Pope John Paul II released the apostolic letter “Orientale Lumen,” or “Light of the East,” to encourage Catholics to learn more about the Eastern churches, “so as to be nourished” by their tradition and “to encourage the process of unity” between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Beginning with this edition, ONE will regularly highlight the ancient and diverse rites and traditions of the Eastern churches.


n the Eastern Christian tradition — particularly in the Byzantine churches of Eastern Europe and the Middle East — the icon (from the Greek eikon, meaning image) is more than just a devotional image of J e s u s , Mar y an d s ain ts embellishing churches and homes. The icon “is both the way and the means” for communion with Divinity, wrote the Russian theologian Leonid A. Ouspensky — indeed, “it is prayer itself.” The theology of the icon is complex. It developed during the patristic era of the Eastern churches. It blossomed, however, during the Iconoclastic Controversy in the eighth and ninth centuries, when Byzantine emperors invoked Old Testament prohibitions on the creation and veneration of idols and o r d e r e d ico n s s m as h e d , frescoes whitewashed and mosaics scraped. St. John of Damascus and St. Theodore the Studite wrote eloquent treatises defending the orthodoxy of the icon, connecting its veneration with the belief in the mystery of the Incarnation. This connection between the Incarnation and the icon was fleshed out fully by the fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), who restored the creation and veneration of icons throughout the church. The mystery of the Incarnation — God became man

in order that man should become God — remains at the heart of contemporary Eastern Christian iconography. “No one has ever seen God,” Sister Marie-Paul, an Egyptian-born Be n e d ictin e s is te r liv i ng i n Jerusalem, said in these pages in 1996. “God has no shape, measure, color or volume. But to reveal himself, God gave us an image, an icon that has shape, color, measure and volume. That divine image is the human being. Thus, for the fathers of the church, the icon is the visible of the invisible.” Looking upon an icon, praying before an icon, she said, brings us into the presence of the one who is resurrected and transfigured, the one who invites us to communion. The iconographer is instrumental in this complex spiritual process. In the Eastern Christian tradition, the revelation of the divine through the icon is on par with the revealed Word of God. Therefore, the making of an icon is a form of spiritual writing, which must be entered into with fasting and prayer. “Writing an icon is liturgy,” says Sister Eliseea Papacioc, a Romanian Orthodox nun and world-renowned iconographer. “For the liturgy is the intervention of God through man, and in making an icon, one should transmit to people what God wants.”




from the world of CNEWA


ast year, we reported on the remarkable success of Catholic schools in Ethiopia (Making the Grade, November). We were interested in hearing more from the perspective of a teacher and so Deacon Greg Kandra reached out to Argaw Fantu, a 52-year-old instructor who lives in Addis Ababa and has three decades of experience in the Ethiopian Catholic school system. Shortly after this interview, he was appointed CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia.


rgaw Fantu, a married father of two children, has a deep appreciation for what Catholic education means to the people of Ethiopia, where Catholics are a tiny minority, but where Catholic schools are among the most cherished and successful in the country. CNEWA, Mr. Fantu said, has been an invaluable help. “CNEWA has been able to support schools, upgrading school facilities in some areas where the Catholic schools are in high demand,” he wrote to us. “CNEWA’s support has significantly changed the lives of many young children who do not have opportunities or access to this kind of education.” Through a series of emails, he elaborated on his background, his experience, and his hope for schools in his homeland.




Argaw Fantu poses with his wife, Meseret, his daughter, Betselot, and his son, Robel.

ONE: What inspired you to become a teacher? Argaw Fantu: In the early 1970’s I joined a Catholic primary school newly established in my village in the southern rural part of Ethiopia. I had been attracted by t he d ilig e n t an d e x p r e s s iv e t each e r s , m ain ly n u n s . T h e ir enco u r ag e m e n t ch an g e d th e course of my life. I wanted so much to be like one of those teachers who captured the students’ imagination. As a result, on completing my secondary education I joined the Social Science faculty of the Add is Ab ab a U n iv e r s ity an d studied geography.

ONE: What grade did you teach? How large were you classes? Argaw Fantu: After graduation, I was assigned to a government secondary school located in rural we s te r n p ar ts o f Et hi op i a . I started teaching there in September of 1986. For four and a half years I taught geography and English for grades 9 to 12. There were 70 students in each class. In 1991, I was asked by the bishop of my former eparchy, the Vicariate of Awassa, to start running a new Catholic secondary school together with the Comboni Missionary Sisters. I worked as a teacher and served as deputy headmaster for almost 19 years. The school is located in a fastgrowing city — Awassa — and is called St. Daniel Comboni Catholic Se co n d ar y an d P r e p a ra t ory School. The class size ranges 45 to 50 students each.

ONE: How important is Catholic education to the people of Ethiopia?

difference in the lives of many young Ethiopians.

ONE: What role does your faith play in your work as a teacher?

Argaw Fantu: Catholic education is so significant! Some of the preparatory schools have grades from primary to secondary level. Almost all of them are highly reputable schools, known for academic excellence and strong values. Roughly estimating, from these preparatory schools about 2,500 students annually join

ONE: What has been your most memorable experience as a teacher?

Argaw Fantu: Faith is nothing but responding to the invitation of the Lord Jesus. It is relating what one believes to how one does things. In my experience, to be a teacher is to be called to “go out and teach people to make them ‘good’ disciples” — disciples of reason, wisdom and knowledge. In other words, teaching is a

Argaw Fantu: The greatest satisfaction is to see my students become successful in their studies and succeeding in the world. For me, to be a teacher is not only about im p ar tin g acad e m ic knowledge to students; it’s also

Ethiopia’s future depends, among other things, on a coherent education system that can lift up the country from poverty.

This happens when teachers love the profession so

much that students look up to them as role models. universities to follow their professional studies. All of them successfully complete their studies and are able to competitively join the work force. For example: last August, 35 medical doctors graduated from Addis Ababa University, and they were all former students of Lideta Catholic Cathedral School in Addis Ababa. It just indicates how Catholic schools in Ethiopia are important for people and for our country. In spite of the fact that the Catholic faithful are the minority here, Catholic schools make up the second largest educational system, after the public system. There are challenges, of course. Most schools are located in rural areas where resources are very meager. But thanks to the wide range of support provided by different church-based institutions — such as the missionary institutes and CNEWA — these schools are making a

about seeing those students become more competent and efficient in their duties and responsibilities — to see them grow as individuals. ONE: What is your hope for Ethiopia’s future, and how do you think education can contribute to that? Argaw Fantu: The future of Ethiopia depends, among other things, on a coherent education system that can lift up the country from poverty. This can happen when teachers become more skilled and committed and love the teaching profession so much that students look up to them as role models. Teachers need a lot of support. I’d like to be able to give that by sharing my experience with teachers in different Catholic schools across the country, and also by sharing my satisfaction in teaching, maybe by organizing and conducting training workshops for teachers.

transformation: from ignorance to knowledge. As many educators agree, and I, too, discovered through faith, Jesus Christ is the greatest teacher of all ages and the eternal founder and head of the church. He is a teacher by nature, vocation and action. If this is so then it is my faith that truly shaped me to be who I am today as a teacher.

Greg Kandra is CNEWA’s multimedia editor and serves as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Watch a video interview with Ethiopia regional director Argaw Fantu at: web/392c





on the world of CNEWA


ave you noticed how beautiful are the musical sounds that come from the mouths of children? Whether in chorus or with individual little voices, children reach out in song with clarity, purity and sincerity. Their voices reflect the qualities that God has given them to be the best ambassadors of the best in life. In my many pastoral visits to areas of conflict where CNEWA is privileged to serve, these little ones remind me so forthrightly



why CNEWA does what it does — because God loves each and every one of us and wishes us to love one another. And no one teaches us better than children. Despite the tragedy of war, oppression, poverty and so many forms of injustice in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, the Horn of Africa and India, God’s precious poor children still offer a smile and extend a hand to each of us, to their caregivers and to other little children.

As a donor and a member of the CNEWA family, you have inherited a treasured family album that encompasses many areas of the world and includes thousands and thousands of children who offer us their love. They are our CNEWA children. They are needy, they suffer, they are victims — but we help to bring a little joy and hope to their lives, and put smiles on their faces. In their name, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all of you and invite you to continue with your generosity.

You can’t put a price on hope. Make the greatest investment — a gift for the future. Help our children in need. They’ll never forget it. In Canada, call 1-866-322-4441 or visit In the United States, call 1-800-442-6392 or visit

When you think about these little ones who are needy and who suffer, remember their smiles and listen to their beautiful voices lifted up in song. God bless the children and God bless you!

Msgr. John E. Kozar



CNEWA a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 • 1-212-826-1480 • 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9 • 1-866-322-4441 •