God • World • Human Family • Church
Life in the Margins Georgia’s New Orphans: The Elderly Life as a Refugee in Ethiopia Caste Aside: Christians in India
Shaken by the Earthquake of Life Challenges for seniors in Armenia’s poorest region text and photographs by Gayane Abrahamyan
Caring for Georgia’s New Orphans Seniors find companions, friends and dignity text and photographs by Molly Corso
Starting Over Inside a refugee camp in Ethiopia by Fanuel Abebe
Breaking Barriers A pictorial journey to the Holy Land excerpts from the addresses of Pope Francis
Caste Aside “Untouchable” Christians celebrate their faith by Jose Kavi
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DEPARTMENTS Connections to CNEWA’s world People Oleksandr Bohomaz by Antin Sloboda Focus on the world of CNEWA by John E. Kozar
t Two youths walk to the community center of the Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia, which shelters more than 17,000 refugees.
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OFFICIAL PUBLICATION CATHOLIC NEAR EAST WELFARE ASSOCIATION
Volume 40 NUMBER 2
That’s how judges described ONE, honoring the magazine with First Place for General Excellence at the Catholic Press Association awards Give something outstanding: a subscription to ONE
38 Front: Women pray in a Catholic church in a northern Armenian village near Gyumri. Back: Jaswir Singh’s children, seen in their family’s brick house, attend a school funded in part by CNEWA. Photo Credits Front cover, page 5, Armineh Johannes; pages 2, 16-21, Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures; pages 3 (upper left), 6-7, 9-11, Nazik Armenakyan; pages 3 (upper right), 23, 25, 27 (far right), 29, CNS/Paul Haring; pages 3 (lower left), 38-39, 40 (lower), 41-43, John E. Kozar; pages 3 (lower right), 30, 32-35, back cover, John Mathew; page 4 (upper), L’Osservatore Romano; page 4 (lower), CNEWA Ethiopia; pages 12-13, 15, Molly Corso; page 22, Mohammad Hannon/AP/Corbis; page 24, CNS/L’Osservatore Romano; pages 26-27, 28, CNS photo/Abir Sultan, EPA; pages 36-37, courtesy Seminary of the Three Hierarchs, Kiev; page 40 (upper), John E. Kozar/CNEWA. ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar
30 Editorial Staff Paul Grillo Deacon Greg Kandra Michael J.L. La Civita Elias Mallon, S.A., Ph.D. J.D. Conor Mauro Timothy McCarthy CNEWA Founded by the Holy Father, CNEWA shares the love of Christ with the churches and peoples of the East. CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches to identify needs and implement reasonable solutions. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope. Officers Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Chair and Treasurer Msgr. John E. Kozar, Secretary Editorial Office 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195 1-212-826-1480 www.cnewa.org ©2014 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
In Canada, call 1-866-322-4441 or visit www.cnewa.ca In the United States, call 1-800-442-6392 or visit www.cnewa.org
to CNEWA’s world
Solidarity With the East In late June, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar attended the plenary assembly of aid agencies to the Eastern churches. Hosted by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the assembly enables participants to better coordinate humanitarian and pastoral aid, especially in crisisstricken areas. Major themes included conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, and how to best assist the churches serving in these regions. “True peace,” said Pope Francis on 26 June, “the peace that the world cannot give, is a gift to us from Jesus Christ. For all the grievous attacks it endures today, peace can always flourish again. I am grateful you continue to ‘make peace grow’ through charity, which is the ultimate aim of all your organizations. With unity and charity Christ’s disciples strive to be peacemakers everywhere, in all peoples and communities, and to overcome persistent forms of discrimination, starting with those based on religion.”
ONE Honored for General Excellence ONE magazine won top honors once again from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, earning 15 awards for both its print and online editions, including First Place for General Excellence. The awards were presented at the annual Catholic Media Conference held this June in Charlotte, North Carolina. The judges, who included journalism professors from Marquette University and Spring Hill College, lauded ONE ’s “sophisticated look and feel” and its “powerful images and stories from around the world.” For a complete listing of ONE ’s awards, with links to the winning stories and pictures, visit WWW. C N E WA B L O G . O R G / W E B / CPA2014.
A Snapshot of Gaza CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, paid a visit to Gaza this spring and participated in a conference to identify the needs and priorities of people in the region. More than 200 people attended, including key members of Christian institutions and guests representing the Catholic Coordination Committee in Jerusalem. Among other findings, one survey indicated that Christians are a tiny minority in Gaza, with just 390 households. Most are educated, but a great many are poor — some 34 percent have no income to cover basic living costs, nor health insurance coverage. To read the full report, visit WWW. C N E WA . O R G / W E B / GAZAREPORT2014.
Gratitude From a Priest CNEWA has long supported the formation of priests and religious. Recently, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, received a letter from a newly ordained priest offering his gratitude and prayers.
OUR WEBSITE onemagazinehome.org OUR BLOG cnewablog.org The Rev. Degefe Ossabo Sodeno now serves in “the remotest area of the country” — the Afar region, some 360 miles from Addis Ababa — as a pastor, a director of the Missionaries of Charity and a hostel director.
“Really, my seven-year journey to my priesthood was very joyful and cheerful because I walked with you,” he wrote. “May the heavenly Father grant you the peace, the love, the strength and the support you need in the days of your life journey. I keep you all in my prayers.” Conference on Syria On 30 May, the pope’s personal charity, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, hosted a meeting in Rome for Catholic aid agencies providing emergency assistance to Syrian families displaced by the ongoing civil war. The proceedings included an introduction by Cardinal Robert Sarah; a general update on the situation in Syria by the apostolic nuncio to Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari; and discussion panels focusing on the content, coordination and prioritization of relief activities for refugee families in the region. Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt and CNEWA’s representative at the meeting, emphasized the importance of walking with the local churches, and coordinating aid through the heroic people that constitute them. To read Mr. Constantin’s report on the event, visit WWW. C N E WA B L O G . O R G / W E B / CORUNUM.
Life in the Margins I
n a message to the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches last autumn, Pope Francis turned the world’s attention to people in the margins: “We are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment.” Increasingly, in many parts of the world, the ones who are being neglected and abandoned are the elderly; many of them are poor, with no one to care for them. They are, in a real sense, the new orphans. In this edition, we introduce readers to the elderly in Armenia and Georgia. We also visit a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where thousands of Eritreans are seeking to start new lives. Our coverage begins on Page 6.
Only on the Web
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There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • A first-person account of life inside the Mai-Aini Refugee Camp in Ethiopia • A full report on a June visit to Gaza by Sami El-Yousef • C omplete texts of the pope’s speeches and homilies from the Holy Land • Plus exclusive videos about our world.
THESE AND MUCH MORE CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.CNEWA.ORG
FOR DAILY UPDATES, CHECK OUT CNEWA’S BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE AT CNEWABLOG.ORG
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Shaken by the Earthquake of Life Challenges for seniors in Armeniaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poorest region text and photographs by Gayane Abrahamyan
Geghecik Yenoqian stands at the doorway of her home, built as a temporary shelter after the earthquake 25 years ago.
ith trembling hands and great care, 82-year-old Ophelia Matevosian recalls the brightest memory of her life: receiving the Order of Lenin — the highest civic honor of the Soviet Union — for her lifetime of work and service to society. “In 1971 they called me, and [First Secretary of the Communist Party Anton] Kochinian handed the award to me personally. I worked well, I loved my job, was very active, but so what? What’s left of it now? Everything was destroyed; the earthquake took it all,” says the woman, fixing a wistful gaze on the platinum medal. “I was 14 when I was brought to Gyumri,” says Ms. Matevosian, who grew up in an orphanage. “Back then many orphans were brought here to work at big plants. This city was once the country’s industrial center and we were used as a workforce.” She began working at the textile factory, and continued for most of her life. After she outgrew the orphanage, the state gave her a room in one of the city’s best hostels as a temporary residence. She has lived within those same walls, encompassing just 170 square feet, ever since. “I moved into this room the day Stalin died. It was not a good day. Stalin did not forgive me for celebrating. That is why I ended up
spending my entire life in this tiny room, never having a family,” she jokes. A moment later, she bursts into tears. “I have been alone since the orphanage and until today,” she says, swallowing back her emotion; the bitterness and sadness of her solitary existence reflect in her gray eyes. “I am not crying because I am alone. Please, believe me, these are tears of joy and gratitude for the people I have by my side today — for their kindness, their warmth.” The “kind people” entered Ms. Matevosian’s life in 2002, when a team from Caritas Armenia found and enrolled her in a home care program that has since become a lifeline for seniors living alone and without anyone to care for them.
rmenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri was flattened by a devastating earthquake in December 1988, taking the lives of 25,000 people, about 40 percent of whom were children. In the Western media, photographs of the ruined city — then known as Leninakan — became a source of humiliation for a crumbling Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the quality of construction was so poor almost every building erected in Gyumri in the Soviet period was destroyed. A quarter century later, the city and its
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“Eh, sweetheart, I have no one at all. I am completely alone.” CNEWA supports a variety of
initiatives of Caritas Armenia, the Armenian Sisters of the
Immaculate Conception and the Ordinariate for Armenian
Catholics in Armenia. Among efforts to care for the elderly,
CNEWA supports the “Warm
Winter” program of Caritas, which provides heating fuel to 620
pensioners living in Gyumri and in remote villages farther north,
where temperatures can dip as low as 20 degrees below zero. To lend your support for the elderly in Armenia, call:
1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).
environs are shaken by a “different kind of quake.” “This is an earthquake of life, of terrible social hardship and of moral values,” says Vahan Tumasian, who advocates for earthquake survivors’ housing rights and implements housing programs in northwestern Armenia. Even 25 years after the calamity, he adds, “poverty and homelessness are even more acute.” Shirak, in northwestern Armenia, with Gyumri as its capital, stands out as the poorest province in a nation crippled by poverty. National Statistical Service data for 2013 reveal a 46 percent poverty rate, while other regions of the country report an average poverty rate of nearly 33 percent.
“After the earthquake, everybody was sort of in the same state — homeless, poor. However, those living in temporary housing were isolated and alienated as years went by. The districts turned into ghettos, where poverty is a little short of hell,” says Mr. Tumasian. “If anybody wants to see what hell looks like, they should come visit the domik districts.” From a distance, the temporary shanty homes referred to as domiks call to mind a scrapyard: ramshackle heaps of rusty, decayed tin structures — initially meant as temporary shelters — in which people have somehow survived for 25 years while waiting for proper housing. “The domik conditions are to a large degree responsible for the acute challenges of caring for the elderly in Gyumri,” he says. “Some 700 seniors live alone in these worn-out houses, without so much as bathroom or toilet facilities.” Since the earthquake, the population of Gyumri has dropped by about half. In 1988, some 220,000 people lived in the city. But by 2011 — due to the earthquake and the country’s economic collapse after it achieved independence from an unraveling Soviet Union — Gyumri’s population declined to 121,500. Many are convinced the actual number of people living in the city is less than 90,000. According to the United Nations, Armenia is among the world’s “aging” nations. Pensioners constitute some 14 percent of the
country’s 2.9 million people. In Gyumri, the average age is trending upward as more and more of the young and capable pursue employment abroad, usually Russia. “Imagine how things stand with the frail elderly if men leave their children to go find jobs to earn their living, if unemployment is 40 percent in the city during the summer, and rises to 60 percent in the winter due to fewer seasonal jobs,” says Sister Arousiag Sajonian of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. “If the young cannot survive, how can seniors?” asks Sister Arousiag, who arrived in northwestern Armenia soon after the earthquake. She later founded the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Center in Gyumri, which since 2011 has also included a center to care for the elderly. Observers say pensioners in northern Armenia are left alone with no caretakers for a variety of reasons. Some may have lost their children in the earthquake. Others lost their children to emigration. But alone in Gyumri exists the phenomenon of orphaned children brought by the Soviets to work in factories — orphans such as Ophelia Matevosian — who never married or created families and remain alone. Though two of these factors find their roots in the past, one remains an ongoing concern. “The growing migration of the young is aggravating the issue
with pensioners,” says Theresa Grigorian, who heads the social affairs department of Gyumri’s municipal government. She says thousands of childless seniors now live in Gyumri, the majority of whom were orphans themselves. Between 300 and 400 have lost their children in the earthquake and more than 2,500 are now left without a caretaker because of the emigration of their surviving children. “When the young can hardly take care of their own families, the elder care issues double. If it weren’t for the programs implemented by various organizations — the day care centers and charity canteens — these people would have simply died,” says Ms. Grigorian.
amaspryur Nazaretian, 85, recalls with excitement the winter day when she happened to meet a team from Caritas. “I was chopping wood. They came up and asked me a few questions: ‘Grandma, don’t you have a son to chop wood? Why are you the one doing it?’ “I told him, ‘Eh, sweetheart, I have no one at all. I am completely alone.’” Her voice breaks with emotion, eyes start glowing with tears. “God sent them to me, otherwise, I would not have survived that winter.” With a childlike joy and excitement she shows one by one all the garments and towels and warm blankets Caritas has provided her.
zKatarine Hoveian, 91, has lived alone for 25 years. p A Caritas volunteer, right, visits Hamaspyur Nazaretian.
“They give everything — food, clothes, medical assistance. They take us to see places. They celebrate our birthdays. Most importantly, we are no longer alone,” says the elderly woman, who for 25 years has lived in a 160-square-foot “allin-one” shelter, which serves as a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room, with concrete floors and walls moldy from damp. The moisture is so severe the cycle of freezing and thawing has opened large cracks in the walls. On some
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Everyone needs a hand Support our efforts for the elderly www.cnewa.org
winter days, to leave the bed is to risk freezing to death. “Every day, I extend my prayers and thanks to God for these people.” Since 2002, Caritas Armenia has been implementing a home care program for some 140 seniors living alone. About 60 more attend the day care center, where they spend the greater part of the day — eating, enjoying various activities and receiving routine medical checkups, even basic medicines. “To the majority of our seniors, this center is not simply social. It also gives them psychological support. They often tell us, ‘When you come, we feel we are worth something, that there is someone who cares how we are faring,’” says Caritas’s Flora Sargsian, who manages the program. She says mental issues are very common among the elderly, and some attribute it to their social
conditions, posttraumatic stress related to the earthquake or to prolonged loneliness. In Gyumri, various organizations care for pensioners, but Caritas Armenia offers the most comprehensive of services, including rudimentary health and home care, social assistance and daily activities. Often, these activities are the difference between life and death to seniors living alone. The 2008 Report on Aging Survey, released by the National Statistical Service of Armenia, indicated more than 70 percent of Armenia’s population aged 50 years or older receives a pension lower than the minimum subsistence threshold — with some significantly below that line. “Of course, it is no news that one cannot survive on their pension,” says Anahit Gevorgian, who heads the department of senior issues at
the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. “Seniors mostly cope through their children’s support.” Olichka Simonian, a woman with four decades’ experience as a teacher, recalls the time before a day care center brought order to her interior life: “Those were truly days of sorrow. I was alone and lonely, and kept wondering what the point was in living at all.” “After the earthquake I became detached from God. Such hardship made me doubt; if there was a God, all of this wouldn’t have happened. Here, I have rediscovered myself and reconnected with God,” she says as she crosses herself. “It was God’s doing that I came here, my life has changed completely — they are so caring and considerate, trying to bring joy to us.” Three years ago, Ms. Simonian found new meaning at Gyumri’s Nadine Basmajian Day Care Center,
Seniors gather for lunch in Caritas Armenia’s day care center.
established by Sister Arousiag with support from Armenian donors and organizations in Switzerland. “There was an urgent need for a day center for elderly people, because the issue is getting more and more acute,” says the indefatigable nun. The Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception work in a variety of apostolates throughout the Caucasus and the Middle East. Yet, they are best known for their schools and programs for vulnerable children, especially girls. “Only 10 among our 44 charges are parentless orphans,” says Sister Arousiag of the children cared for at the community’s center. “The other children are simply ‘social orphans,’ children who cannot live at home for lack of the basics. How can these parents take care of their aging parents when they have no means to take care of their own children?
“Serious social challenges lead to the loss of family values,” she concludes. “We are losing our families, and that’s the beginning of losing our nation.”
t the Nadine Basmajian Center, 35 elderly people currently find company and sympathy as they spend their days there; some 200 seniors have benefited since the sisters launched the center. The most energetic participant, Hamazasp Hakobian, 85, divides his life into three phases: orphanage, the end of World War II and the earthquake. “I overcame the postwar famine, but the earthquake destroyed everything,” he says of a calamity that killed his wife, leaving him to rear his three teenagers alone. Now he is alone again. “They all have left the country, looking for sources of income and
means of survival,” he says of his children. “We are here in this center so we don’t lose our minds with loneliness, hunger and cold. We couldn’t bear to be away for even a day,” he says, with a kindly look to his friends. “Believe me, being alone is the cruelest punishment in this life.” Gayane Abrahamyan’s reporting has appeared in The Atlantic, EurasiaNet and ArmeniaNow.
READ MORE OF GAYANE ABRAHAMYAN’S IMPRESSIONS OF GYUMRI ON OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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Caring for Georgiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s
New Orphans Seniors find companions, friends and dignity text and photographs by Molly Corso
Five days a week, 40 senior citizens come to the Harmony Center to eat, browse and socialize in warmth and safety.
or Nona Iashvili, even making tea is a daunting task. With her hands maneuvering her walker, every step taken by the 77-year-old must be carefully choreographed: one hand on the kettle, one to balance; switch hands to turn on the small electric hot plate; switch hands to get the cup. Mobility is not her only challenge. Her apartment in downtown Tbilisi has neither running hot water nor heat. She shares a bathroom with her neighbors in the common yard. The former music teacher lives alone, on the brink of abject poverty. But at the Harmony Center in Tbilisi, Ms. Iashvili does not have to worry about how she will make tea or stay warm. Here, she can sit, relax and talk with friends. “Here, it is warm,” she says, settling down in a comfortable chair near the piano in the center’s television room. “Here, by any definition, things are good.” Ms. Iashvili is one of 37 senior citizens who spend their weekdays at the Harmony Center, an institution of Caritas Georgia, the social service agency of the Catholic community in Georgia. Since opening its doors seven years ago, the center has provided shower facilities, basic medical care, physical therapy, concerts and a score of other activities for seniors in need. They come in the morning and stay until early evening. They may cross the courtyard and eat lunch at the dining hall, and return for tea and sandwiches or cookies while they watch television, talk with friends, sew or read. A native of Poland, Sister Monica of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth is on hand to perform checkups and to ensure everyone is current on their medicine. The center organizes weekly events, such as lectures and musical performances, and a doctor visits once a week to address ailments or other concerns.
Most of those pensioners who utilize the center live alone and below the poverty line. Harmony, Ms. Iashvili says, provides them with a place to spend the day in warmth and comfort. Along with Caritas Georgia’s health clinic and home care program, the Harmony Center is a small source of solace for seniors in the former Soviet republic who grapple with a state pension — 150 Georgian lari (roughly $86) monthly — that cannot keep up with the cost increases for such necessities as medicine, food and heat. Olya Gardava, a pensioner who regularly comes to the center, says she spent 70 lari — nearly half of her retirement income — just to keep a single electric heater running. The cost, she says, makes it simply too expensive to stay warm at home. Likewise, the uptick in the cost of medication means even the treatment of the most basic of colds can deny the pensioner enough food to eat. Gaioz Kubaneishvili, Caritas Georgia’s social and medical program manager, says that despite new government programs to provide seniors with health care benefits and vouchers for electricity in the winter, old age is becoming more difficult in Georgia. “We don’t have good statistics, but according to our observations, there are people for whom food insecurity is very high,” he says, noting that pensioners also receive less food aid from international agencies than they did just five years ago. In the aftermath of Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia, international aid helped pick up the pieces, providing resources to help the most vulnerable, such as the old and the sick. Today, global priorities have shifted and with it, international aid. Georgia’s problems, however, remain unsolved.
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CNEWA began working in the
republic of Georgia soon after the
nation achieved independence from
the Soviet Union. While efforts have been modest, CNEWA support has
taken many forms, focusing on care for street children and homeless pensioners and provision of
emergency medical care for families impacted by war.
Join CNEWA as it launches initiatives in Georgia and
neighboring Armenia to care for the “new orphans” — the elderly. To learn more, call:
1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).
Until a few years ago, Caritas Georgia provided food to housebound pensioners, delivering prepared meals door to door. However, as financing for health care and other immediate needs grew tighter, the program had to be cut. Today, Caritas Georgia helps over 800 people with its soup kitchen, health clinic, home care program and the Harmony Center. But, says the Rev. Krzysztof Kowal, the director of Caritas Georgia, the demand is much, much greater. “The demand is ten times more. If you could accept 10,000 people and feed them,” he says, “there would still be more demand.”
These overwhelming needs exist because Georgia remains very poor. Nearly 43 percent of the nation’s population lives below the official poverty line. Those unable to work, such as the elderly or disabled, are especially vulnerable. While the current government has put a priority on strengthening a social safety net — unveiling new, statesubsidized insurance initiatives following the privatization of health care in the last decade — its programs stop short of providing a stable quality of life for seniors, especially those who live alone. They still lack the means to buy medication, heat their homes and, in some cases, eat. Canceling the clinic’s food program is significant, Mr. Kubaneishvili explains, because the clinic’s entire clientele — walk-ins and the housebound alike — struggles with food security. Determining exactly how many seniors remain in need of help remains “the big question,” says Mr. Kubaneishvili. “Unfortunately, there is no reliable source of information because the government’s department of statistics does not have any information.” “We know the number of people who applied to the social services agency and they are people who are registered as living under the poverty level, but it does not cover the whole population.” In many cases, he says, those who need care most desperately are housebound and cannot get to the ministry’s office to register. “When we learn about such people, our social worker helps them to register. This is one of our functions. But it is difficult to identify such people.” Since they are largely out of the public eye, Mr. Kubaneishvili notes, it is easy to forget about them. “Maybe it is the reason why they are so neglected. Because they do
not go out, they cannot speak in demonstrations, they cannot go to the ministry of health. It is only our voice and the voices of our colleagues from other organizations who speak for them.” Father Krzysztof Kowal is one such voice speaking out for seniors and lobbying for a better system of care. If given enough space, Father Kowal says, the soup kitchen could easily feed more people. With enough financing, the Harmony Center could become a proper retirement home — a safe place where seniors who have no one to care for them could live their remaining years in dignity. “We have one limitation: space,” says the priest. Nona Iashvili, for example, had to wait for a place at the day center; it can only take a maximum of 40 clients. But Father Kowal is not deterred. The needs are great and the goals, he says, lofty: “to create a home for senior citizens who are living alone.” The key, the Polish-born priest says, is first to “secure the initiatives one has, and only after that go after new ones.” The projects he has found the means to maintain — especially the home care program — are changing the way people care for the elderly. Caritas Georgia is already providing training for new nurses, and has received some financial assistance from the Tbilisi mayor’s office to continue their home care initiative. One of the first examples of home care nursing in the country, Caritas Georgia’s team of nurses works in several cities and towns around Georgia, providing medical care to people who are too sick or disabled to make it to a local clinic. At the Harmony Center, the program is having an equally impressive impact. It is changing the way the senior citizens think about themselves.
or Georgia, a society with a long, cherished tradition of multigenerational households that take care of their own from cradle to grave, the idea of a senior citizen with no money and no family used to be unthinkable. As part of the Soviet Union, Georgians were insulated by a state-run system of health care: doctors were plentiful and medicine was cheap. The question of who would take care of grandma or grandpa in their old age was never an issue. Today, however, with widespread poverty pushing families apart — many emigrate to Russia, or abroad — it is becoming more common. Tsiala Gogodze, 74, used to arrange tours and official visits for dignitaries when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. With a smattering of English to flavor her fluent Russian and Georgian, Ms. Gogodze laments the loneliness that gnawed at the seniors before they found the center and each other. “You know what is horrible? No one needs people like us, not our relations, not anyone,” she says. “That is horrible.” Family is a crucial part of Georgian culture, and the expectation that one’s family will always be there runs deep in the national psyche. Without family to look after them, or visit with them, many of the seniors who now visit the center had no one to talk with them or even care about them. For Ivlita Kokaidze, a veteran of World War II who will turn 92 in 2014, the center has become a home away from home, a place where she can seek “relief” from the grief of losing her daughter four years ago. “If I didn’t come here, I would go insane,” she says. “I come here, even just to read magazines, and that relieves my sadness.” Nona Iashvili notes that the warm atmosphere and caring staff at the Harmony Center can make it hard to go back home.
“The workers here are so warm and nice; people don’t want to leave in the evening. Some even say if you brought a bed here, we would stay and sleep,” she says. “I can’t say anything but thank you.” Nana Natsvalishvili, the project manager at the Harmony Center, says before the center opened, seniors who went to Caritas Georgia’s soup kitchen for lunch would linger as long as possible because they enjoyed the companionship. “When they came here, they got to know each other. They found friends in one another, created relationships. If someone falls sick, his or her friend will pick up lunch and take it to them. This means a lot.” Ms. Natsvalishvili and her team at the Harmony Center work to provide the seniors with attention and entertainment — occasional day trips out of town, a weekly movie in the winter, special guests and even birthday parties. Tsiala Gogodze enjoys the parties, but being acknowledged is a joy unto itself.
Through Caritas Georgia, pensioners have access to doctors, social workers, medicines, clothing, heating fuel and food.
“We are very happy, very satisfied,” she says. “We have birthday parties, we receive presents — but most importantly, we congratulate each other. We are all alone, and it is very pleasant when someone celebrates with you. “The most important thing is not the party; the most important thing is that someone remembers us.” The writing of Tbilisi-based photojournalist Molly Corso has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and EurasiaNet.
MOLLY CORSO OFFERS HER EXPERIENCES COVERING THIS ASSIGNMENT ON OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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n northern Ethiopia, close to the border with Eritrea, you will find a crowded place of hope. It is the MaiAini Refugee Camp. Here, thousands of Eritreans have arrived to begin the process of starting anew.
The camp was established in 2008, through the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to a report last March, the camp accommodates just over 17,000 Eritrean refugees; nearly 75 percent of them are between the ages of 12 and 59. Several international organizations are helping the men, women and children living in the camp — working to provide water, sanitation, education and child protection. Jesuit Refugee Service (J.R.S.) started serving the camp in 2010, offering programs for psychosocial, pastoral and educational support. CNEWA has been working in collaboration with J.R.S. to bring help to people who are frightened, hungry, desperate and very often alone. Most of the needs are emotional and psychological. Many in the camp suffer from loneliness, depression, boredom and despair. Some of the elderly feel alienated and useless among the younger refugees, many of whom are quickly losing their culture and identity. Resources are few, but the needs are great.
In the spring, Fanuel Abebe, project director for J.R.S. in Mai-Aini — accompanied by CNEWA’s regional director in Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, and photographer Petterik Wiggers — visited the camp to spend time with some of the families entrusted to their care. You can read his impressions in a web exclusive at www.cnewa.org/ web/refugeecamp.
To appreciate better the challenges of those living in MaiAini, and how to better address these needs, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, traveled there in April. You can hear from him directly at this link: www. onemgazinehome.org/web/visittoethiopia.
A girl carries her brother across the Mai-Aini refugee camp near Shire in northern Ethiopia.
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Elsa’s Dream by Fanuel Abebe
Editor’s note: Last spring, Fanuel Abebe, project director for Jesuit Refugee Service (J.R.S.), visited the Mai-Aini Camp in Ethiopia, where thousands of Eritrean refugees have settled. We asked him to describe part of that visit. Names have been changed for the protection of those involved.
Elsa stands in her home in Mai-Aini, where she has lived for more than four years.
fter a very rough day of driving in the hot, scorching sun across the dusty barren land of the camp, we approached the front of the hut, knocking on the door and calling to those inside. A green plastic sheet issued by the United Nations was suspended from the doorway. It was around 1:30 p.m. As we entered the mud house, we were welcomed with a warm smile by Jerry, whose mother, Elsa, is a client of Jesuit Refugee Service. Elsa was lying down, exhausted. Her daughter was working on the dough for ambasha, a local variety of Ethiopian bread. The hut contained little — just a few cooking materials and two beds made of mud attached to the mud floor. Though tired from her rigorous daily routine — which includes collecting firewood every day for cooking in an ongoing struggle to keep her three daughters fed — Elsa warmly welcomed us, insisting on offering us coffee. As we talked over our coffee, we were surprised at her optimism. We were also delighted at the work J.R.S. had done in keeping Elsa’s spirits high despite her very difficult life as a refugee. Elsa’s face brightened as she told us about Jerry’s performance at a J.R.S. program for music and the performing arts at the camp. From an early age, Elsa told us, Jerry had proven to be a talented dancer and performer. Now in her mid-30’s, Elsa explains that she herself had a great passion for music and dance when she was CNEWA WEB EXCLUSIVE
CNEWA has a long history of working to uplift the people of the Horn of Africa. This includes not only supporting refugees in camps such as Mai-Aini, but by providing care to children in need — especially schooling and nutritional support — assisting in the formation of priests, sisters and community leaders, and a variety of projects that touch the lives of those with special needs. To learn more, visit our website at www.cnewa.org. To learn more, call: 1.800.442.6392 (United States) or 1.866.322.4441 (Canada).
A woman guides her donkey past the makeshift shelters housing Mai-Aini’s thousands of refugees. UPPER RIGHT: Jerry and her friends prepare for a dance recital.
young, and is delighted to see her daughter share that passion. This was one of the reasons behind Elsaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s determination to hang on to life â&#x20AC;&#x201D; J.R.S. has helped her keep her hopes alive. Jerry is one of the many young people living in the Mai-Aini Refugee Camp taking classes at the J.R.S. program for music and the performing arts. Besides music, J.R.S. is also engaged in providing five other types of psychosocial support for children. These programs, which benefit not only the children, but the extended families living in the camp, include counseling, sports and recreational activities, theater and library services. In spite of the desolation in MaiAini, Elsa dreams of a better life for her children. She hopes she and her three daughters can resettle in another country. But with that dream come concerns about how she will be able to support three daughters in a foreign country. She busies herself learning marketable skills, but what she needs most is some normalcy. Elsa once had a happy life. She was married and a mother of four. But then the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea began. Eritrean
by blood, Elsa was deported from her home in Ethiopia, separated from her Ethiopian husband and forced to return to Eritrea with her three daughters and son. What she had expected to be a homecoming quickly turned into a nightmare. Her family had not welcomed her marriage to an Ethiopian and rejected her; she became an outcast. She had to return to Ethiopia, but was forced to leave behind her son, who had to take part in mandatory national military service. On foot, she and her three young daughters plodded through the wilderness, crossing mountains, valleys and rivers, hiding from soldiers. Miraculously, Elsa and her girls made it back to Ethiopia in October 2010, joining more than 17,000 Eritrean refugees living in the Mai-Aini Camp. Today, Elsa has nothing to her name. But she has one thing no one can take away: hope. She lives every day hoping that she and her daughters will one day start a new life together. She hopes they will have a home of their own in a new country. She hopes she will have a job. And she dreams one day her daughter, Jerry, will dance. CNEWA WEB EXCLUSIVE
Care for Marginalized
Breaking BARRIERS From 24-26 May 2014, the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, made a historic pilgrimage to Jordan, Palestine and Israel, marking the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The primary purpose of Francisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; visit was to commemorate an event that began the ecumenical movement between Catholic and Orthodox Christians. The pope also utilized the pilgrimage to focus on several themes pertinent to his papacy: the folly of war, the plight of displaced peoples, poverty and the necessity for dialogue among all peoples and faiths. Following are excerpts from the popeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s speeches and homilies, which speak poignantly of these issues affecting all who live in the region. The complete texts are available on our website, www.cnewa.org/ francisintheholyland.
MEETING WITH THE AUTHORITIES OF THE KINGDOM OF JORDAN Amman, Saturday Jordan has offered a generous welcome to great numbers of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to other refugees from troubled areas, particularly neighboring Syria, ravaged by a conflict that has lasted all too long. Such generosity merits, your majesty, the appreciation and support of the international community. The Catholic Church, to the extent of its abilities, has sought to provide assistance to refugees and those in need. â&#x20AC;Ś I take this opportunity to reiterate my profound respect and esteem for the Muslim community and my appreciation for the leadership of his majesty the king in promoting a better understanding of the virtues taught by Islam and a climate of serene coexistence between the faithful of the different religions. You are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker: Thank you! I am grateful that Jordan has supported a number of important initiatives aimed at advancing interreligious dialogue and understanding among Jews, Christians and Muslims. I think in particular of the Amman Message and the support given within the United Nations Organization to the annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.
MASS International Stadium, Amman, Saturday The mission of the Holy Spirit, in fact, is to beget harmony — he is himself harmony — and to create peace in different situations and between different people. Diversity of ideas and persons should not trigger rejection or prove an obstacle, for variety always enriches. … Peace is not something that can be bought or sold; peace is a gift to be sought patiently and to be “crafted” through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives. The way of peace is strengthened if we realize we are all of the same stock and members of the one human family; if we never forget we have the same Father in heaven and that we are all his children, made in his image and likeness. … Let us ask the Spirit to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion. Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the oil of his mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings and disputes.
MEETING WITH REFUGEES AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Saturday We are profoundly affected by the tragedies and suffering of our times, particularly those caused by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. … All of us want peace! But as we observe this tragic conflict [in Syria], seeing these wounds, seeing so many people who have left their homeland, forced to do so, I ask myself: Who is selling arms to these people to make war? Behold the root of evil! Hatred and financial greed in the manufacturing and sale of arms. This should make us think about who is responsible for this situation, for providing arms to those in conflict and thereby sustaining such conflict. Let us think about this and with sincere hearts let us call upon these poor criminals to change their ways. … I urge the international community not to leave Jordan, who is so welcoming and so courageous, alone in the task of meeting the humanitarian emergency caused by the arrival of so great a number of refugees, but to continue and even increase its support and assistance.
Children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human. Here we can think of the work carried out by the Ephpheta Paul VI Institute for hearingand speech-impaired Palestinian children: It is a very real sign of God’s goodness. It is a clear sign that society is healthier. …
“Diversity of ideas and persons should not trigger rejection or prove an obstacle, for variety always enriches.”
Sadly, in this world, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still, too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child. …
In a world that daily discards tons of food and medicine, there are children, hungry and suffering from easily curable diseases, who cry out in vain. In an age that insists on the protection of minors, there is a flourishing trade in weapons that end up in the hands of childsoldiers, there is a ready market for goods produced by the slave labor of small children.
MASS Manger Square, Bethlehem, Sunday
WELCOMING CEREMONY Ben Gurion International Airport, Sunday In the footsteps of my predecessors, I have come as a pilgrim to the Holy Land, rich in history and home to the principal events in the origin and growth of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As such, it is of immense spiritual significance for a great part of humanity. So I express my hope and prayer this blessed land may be one that has no place for those who, by exploiting and absolutizing the value of their own religious tradition, prove intolerant and violent towards those of others. … In union with all men and women of good will, I implore those in positions of responsibility to leave no stone unturned in the search for equitable solutions to complex problems, so that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace. The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly.
COMMON DECLARATION OF POPE FRANCIS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW Apostolic Delegation, Jerusalem, Sunday Our meeting, another encounter of the bishops of the churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of 50 years ago. … Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey toward the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity. We call to mind with profound gratitude the steps the Lord has already enabled us to undertake. … Over these years, God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us to regard one another as members of the same Christian family, under one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, so that we may confess our faith in the same Gospel of Christ, as received by the apostles and expressed and transmitted to us by the ecumenical councils and the church fathers. While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together toward the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). … United in our intentions, and recalling the example, 50 years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognize the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences for the good of all humanity and of future generations.
ECUMENICAL CELEBRATION OF THE MEETING BETWEEN PAUL VI AND ATHENAGORAS Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Sunday Let us receive the special grace of this moment. We pause in reverent silence before this empty tomb in order to rediscover the grandeur of our Christian vocation: We are men and women of resurrection, and not of death. From this place we learn how to live our lives, the trials of our churches and of the whole world, in the light of Easter morning. Every injury, every one of our pains and sorrows has been borne on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, who offered himself in sacrifice and thereby opened the way to eternal life. His open wounds are like the cleft through which the torrent of his mercy is poured out upon the world. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope, which is this: Christòs anesti!
VISIT TO THE GRAND MUFTI OF JERUSALEM Jerusalem, Monday A pilgrim is a person who makes himself poor and sets forth on a journey. … This was how Abraham lived, and this should be our spiritual attitude. We can never think ourselves self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions. Before the mystery of God we are all poor. We realize we must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God’s call and open to the future that he wishes to create for us. … In our earthly pilgrimage we are not alone. We cross paths with other faithful; at times we share with them a stretch of the road and at other times we experience with them a moment of rest that refreshes us. Such is our meeting today, for which I am particularly grateful.
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VISIT TO YAD VASHEM Jerusalem, Monday “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?” This question is charged with all the sorrow of a father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry — “Where are you?” — echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss.
VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL Presidential Residence, Jerusalem, Monday
VISIT WITH THE CHIEF RABBIS OF ISRAEL Heichal Shlomo Center, Jerusalem, Monday
Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker. I appreciate and admire the approach you have taken. Peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life. This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict. Here I renew my plea that all parties avoid initiatives and actions that contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity. …
We need to do more than simply establish reciprocal and respectful relations on a human level: We are also called, as Christians and Jews, to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us. It is a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties that, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past. …
There is likewise need for a firm rejection of all that is opposed to the cultivation of peace and respectful relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims. We think, for example, of recourse to violence and terrorism, all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or religion, attempts to impose one’s own point of view at the expense of the rights of others, anti-Semitism in all its possible expressions, and signs of intolerance directed against individuals or places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith. I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews, too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people. … Mutual understanding of our spiritual heritage, appreciation for what we have in common, and respect in matters on which we disagree — all these can help to guide us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands.
Help continue the Holy Father’s mission of peace in the Holy Land
“The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew his children could be lost…
Yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss!”
MEETING WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS AND SEMINARIANS Church of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Monday
MASS WITH THE ORDINARIES OF THE HOLY LAND AND THE PAPAL ENTOURAGE The Upper Room, Jerusalem, Monday
Here, at Gethsemane, following [Jesus] became difficult and uncertain; [his disciples] were overcome by doubt, weariness and fright. As the events of Jesus’ passion rapidly unfolded, the disciples would adopt different attitudes before the master: attitudes of closeness, distance, hesitation. …
Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples, here the church was born, and she was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart. …
Here, in this place, each of us — bishops, priests, consecrated persons and seminarians — might do well to ask: Who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord? Am I among those who, when Jesus asks them to keep watch with him, fall asleep instead, and rather than praying, seek to escape, refusing to face reality? Or do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life? … Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift that encourages us to follow him trustingly, notwithstanding our failures, our mistakes, also our betrayals.
The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. … The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. … The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the church’s holiness continues to flow: from the heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.
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Care for Marginalized
Caste Aside â&#x20AC;&#x153;Untouchableâ&#x20AC;? Christians celebrate their faith despite hardship and discrimination text by Jose Kavi with photographs by John Mathew
Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors on charpai (cots of woven ropes) in their tiny village in Gangapar.
ahinder Singh’s life has been fraught with hardship. His troubles began in 1947, when Britain — which had occupied the Indian subcontinent for generations — divided its colony into India and Pakistan, causing a migration of people considered the most extensive in recorded history. Major riots flared among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The ensuing violence killed roughly a million people, including Mr. Singh’s son and many of his relatives. Born more than 90 years ago to a Sikh family of farmers in the Okara district of present-day Pakistan, Mr. Singh became one of the estimated 14.5 million people forced to abandon their ancestral homes and cross the new border after the partition. Complicating matters further, Mr. Singh is a Dalit. A Sanskrit term, Dalit denotes the former “untouchable” groups in India’s multilayered caste system that segregates people on the basis of their birth. According to the 2011 national census, one in six Indians belong to this caste; in Uttar Pradesh, now home to Mahinder Singh, some 20 percent of the state’s nearly 200 million people belong to this group. And though Mahatma Gandhi called the Dalits “harijan” (children of God) and the Indian constitution bans caste discrimination, those once identified as such continue to lag behind, socially and economically. The Indian government recognizes and protects Dalits, but Mr. Singh cannot claim any benefits; his community, Rai Sikh, is not listed as a scheduled caste in Uttar Pradesh. Nor may Mr. Singh appeal this status, as the special concessions for those of low-caste origin are restricted only to Dalits who identify as Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs. Mr. Singh accepted baptism as a Christian 12 years ago.
“I have wandered all my life for happiness and finally found peace in the Lord,” he says, standing tall and wiry despite a slight stoop. Dalit Christians and Muslims are excluded from any concessions under the pretext that Christianity and Islam do not recognize the caste system. For the past 65 years, churches have been fighting to redress this injustice, saying it violates the Indian constitution’s prohibition of discrimination based on religion, caste or gender. But Mr. Singh is not alone. He belongs to a community of hundreds of Syro-Malabar Dalits united within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Bijnor, which includes Uttarakhand state and the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh. He and his wife, Preetam Kaur, live in a small village in an area known as Gangapar, a few miles from the eparchy’s newest parish, St. Alphonsa, founded in July 2013. Theirs is a story of both purpose and perseverance. Despite tremendous obstacles, the parish community has managed to thrive, buoyed by a fervent and unshakable faith.
arrived toward the end, to receive a blessing. After the satsang, the group walks outside to sit in the shade and share their faith experiences. “It is good to pray to God Almighty,” says Mr. Singh, explaining his reason for hosting the gathering, “for he has blessed us so much.” The villagers take turns hosting satsang on Tuesdays, and usually about 30 people attend, says Mito Bai, Mr. Singh’s widowed daughterin-law, who lives in an adjacent hut. Mrs. Bai, who is in her late 40’s, says villagers look forward to this gathering, which is often scheduled at noon to allow agricultural laborers to attend on their lunch break. Faith, she explains, is central to the life of the community. “God heals and blesses us in many ways,” she adds. Nearly seven decades after the greatest tragedy of his generation, Mahinder Singh still leads a humble and simple life — but through his family, faith and church he has found peace.
eople come to church because they feel Christ has touched their lives in some way or other,” says Father Joseph, ordained three years ago. Such faith, he adds, is a great encouragement to those who work in an area that has so little of a Christian presence. Gangapar, the region home to Mr. Singh and his family, means “the other side of the Ganges,” as a tributary of the Ganges River severs it from other areas of the state. For years, the river functioned as a barrier, discouraging Catholic priests from venturing further. For many in the isolated community, their first exposure to Christianity came from itinerant Methodist ministers who would visit and preach. However, people from Gangapar would cross the river from time to
n a Tuesday afternoon in May, around 15 people — mostly women — brave sizzling, 107-degree summer heat to assemble in Mr. Singh’s thatched mud hut. They have to duck to enter the low-roofed, two-room house. Squatting on mats and sheets spread over the floor, they join together in song and prayer. Local catechist Xavier Masih leads what is locally known as satsang (“company of the truth”), a traditional gathering for prayer and discussion. The catechist plays on a dholak, a two-headed drum, starting low and rising to a crescendo. Between hymns he prays for the community and reads a scriptural passage. At the end, people queue up before him and the Rev. M.J. Joseph, who had
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Many Dalit villagers have shown interest in the faith, but social repercussions hold them back. time visit Bhikkawala, where the Syro-Malabar Catholic Sisters of the Destitute manage a dispensary. The priests and nuns noticed the villagers’ interest in the church and its services. “That is how we came to know the people of Gangapar and the work of the Methodists,” Father Joseph says. The eparchy began outreach efforts in the area and six years ago bought six acres of land. A 300-square-foot open shed with a tin roof currently functions as the church. It has no cross and no altar. The only sign of the building’s nature is a painting of Jesus on one wall. On the other side of that wall is a room where the priest lived. Recently, he offered the space to a homeless family, and took up residence in a room rented from a villager. The parish has 12 Catholic families, including two Father Joseph baptized in March. About 60 more families also come to church, called Khrist Bhakta (“devotees of Christ”) — people who follow Christ without receiving baptism. They all live in villages within a 3-mile radius of the church. Because of the community’s Methodist roots, they have yet to adopt Catholic devotions and acts of piety, such as the rosary. “Many find silent, personal prayer difficult,” Father Joseph says, as the parishioners had become quickly accustomed to the “charismatic faith” of the Methodist preachers they had first encountered, which fit well with their traditional satsang.
But the Syro-Malabar priest recognizes another, more fundamental problem for the community. “The language used in the liturgy is high Hindi, which many do not understand. Since most speak Punjabi, they do not connect to the Divine Liturgy.” To better reach out to the community, the pastor encourages the assembly to pray and worship for 45 minutes in satsang style. He then reads from the Gospel, gives a brief homily and continues the Qurbana, the Divine Liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with shortened and simple words, leaving unchanged only the eucharistic liturgy. “This has promoted active participation,” Father Joseph says. Father Joseph says many villagers have shown interest in the faith, but social repercussions hold them back. “After baptizing two families, I have realized people worry about losing touch with their relatives. In emergencies, they used to go to their brothers and sisters for help. After becoming Catholics, relatives taunt them, telling them to go to their priests and nuns for help,” the young priest explains. But some people, such as Jaswir Singh of Champatpur-Chakkala village, have braved such criticism. The turbaned man entered the church despite objections from his brothers, who are Sikhs, yet he is convinced Jesus will take care of him and his family.
The Rev. M.J. Joseph, pastor of St. Alphonsa Church, leads a satsang in a mud hut.
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In partnership with local churches, CNEWA has worked to improve the quality of life for Dalits throughout India for decades. CNEWA supports institutions such as the Malankara Boys’ Home, which provides a stable and caring environment for Dalit students, and the boarding schools of the Eparchy of Bijnor highlighted in this article. CNEWA has also assisted in the construction of homes for poor Dalits in the Archeparchy of Trivandrum, and sustains programs for Dalit families run by women religious nationwide.
“We became Christians because God entered our life,” he says. He denies a common allegation by Hindu radicals that Christian missionaries entice poor Dalits with monetary benefits. “I have not come to the church to receive something, nor have I received anything. We remain poor and continue to work for our living.” Last year, the farmer had to mortgage his land to build a brick house to protect his family from the floods that ravage the village periodically. The transaction is risky, but Mr. Singh recognizes his good fortune, as most of his fellow parishioners work as landless laborers, earning some 250-300 rupees (about $4-5) daily.
early three-quarters of India’s Dalits work as agricultural laborers, earning barely enough to feed their families or to send their children to school. As a result, many remain illiterate. A study four years ago by India’s National Sample Survey Office found that among scheduled castes and tribes, about half of males and three-quarters of females could not read or write. In Gangapar, this group includes Jaswir Singh, his wife and his eldest daughter. However, Mr. Singh is determined to educate his four younger children. Manoj Masih, Mr. Singh’s teenage neighbor, similarly hopes to place his younger siblings into boarding schools. The 18-year-old Catholic
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Villagers gather for a candlelit satsang outside a house in a small village in Bhikkawala.
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youth says he could not attend school because of poverty. He works on farms to supplement the wages his parents earn, and hopes for a better life. Father Joseph hopes to make this happen. The Eparchy of Bijnor awards scholarships to needy children, paying their tuition for six months with an additional stipend to defray the cost of room and board and other fees, to attend boarding schools in either Bhikkawala, for girls and boys under age 10, or Mandawali, some 60 miles away, that houses older students. Mr. Masih says he hopes to educate his sibling at least up to the tenth grade. “The Lord will help me,” he says, holding the rosary he wears around his neck. His entire family was baptized more than three years ago after prayers, he says, healed his elder brother. “We had spent lot of money for his treatment. But it was Prabhu Jisu (Lord Jesus) who cured my brother,” Mr. Masih says, adding that he had a vision of Jesus in a dream asking him to spend less time at work and more time in prayer. “We pray in the morning and evening,” he adds with a sonorous voice that can often be heard adding its color and vigor to the satsang.
oads in the area have not seen repairs for decades, says Surendrapal Singh Rai, a parishioner who coordinates the social service works of St. Alphonsa. The nearest bus stop is about two miles away. He says the government departments and officers neglect the area because most residents are Dalit. Hence the parish reaches out to 15,000 families through initiatives for women, children and adults, regardless of religion. These efforts are improving lives, he says, and changing peoples’ attitudes toward the church. By raising awareness and building community, the parish aims to create a better support structure for the greater Dalit community. Yet this outreach can backfire. In 2008, a group of radical Hindus lashed out against the presence of Christian missionaries in the area. Local people rallied behind the parish when protestors came to torch St. Mary’s Church in Bhikkawala and kill the pastor, the Rev. Jose Thekkemuriyil, amid accusations of “manipulating gullible Dalits.” “But the villagers, led by their chief, chased them away,” Mr. Rai says. The parish has not had such an incident since, he adds. Still, events
like this serve to highlight yet another dimension of challenges this community faces. “Our problems have not ended,” says Mito Bai. “But the Lord helps us to accept whatever happens in life.” Speaking of the seasonal floods that threaten to their homes, she notes: “Once we were in neck deep water and we had nowhere to go. However, the Lord helped us face that situation.” One day, Mrs. Bai hopes to have a brick house of her own, so she never has to worry about her mud hut washing away. But she remains philosophical — and realistic. “Whether mud house or concrete one,” she says, “we have to go to God one day, leaving everything behind.” Jose Kavi writes about social and religious issues in India from New Delhi.
JOSE KAVI HAS MORE ON THE CHALLENGES OF INDIA’S DALITS AT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE:
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from our world
Oleksandr Bohomaz by Antin Sloboda
Ukraine’s upheavals have been tremendous. In the spring edition of ONE, Bishop Borys Gudziak gave a vivid eyewitness account of last winter’s demonstrations in Kiev. We wondered how the crisis there has affected the next generation of priests and impacted the faith of the people — especially those Greek Catholics who, during the Soviet regime, were forced to practice their faith in secret. Antin Sloboda from CNEWA’s office in Canada reached out to one seminarian in Kiev, who answered several questions via email and, in the process, give us a rare glimpse at the life of a man who hopes one day to serve as a priest in Ukraine. ONE: Tell us a little bit about your background. Oleksandr Bohomaz: I was born in 1988 in the little town of Nyzhni Sirohozy in Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson. As a child, I was
baptized in the Orthodox Church, the only church in our district. My family did not go to church regularly, since the church was quite far away. In my social environment and among my classmates, churchgoers and believers were laughed at. I was ashamed to speak publicly about God and I did not have courage to do so. After the completion of the secondary school I went to study at Melitopol Pedagogical University, where I received a degree in history. I worked for two years as a teacher and as a part-time lecturer at the same university where I had studied. ONE: How did you discover your vocation to priesthood? OB: In the final years of college, I met a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest — Father Petro Krinitski. Initially, I had a very negative attitude toward Catholic priests
because of ingrained prejudices and stereotypes. However, when I got to know Father Krinitski better and I saw how he treated other people, I started to attend daily liturgies at the small chapel where he ministered. As I grew in my discovery of God and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, I realized I wanted not only to become a Greek Catholic, but to dedicate my entire life to minister as a priest in this church. In 2011, I applied to the seminary of the Three Hierarchs in Kiev. ONE: What inspired you to want to become a priest? OB: I aspire to bring people closer to God. Our people are very poor, materially and spiritually. Soviet rule wounded spiritual life in Ukraine, and now it is strongly needed. Many people struggle with addiction — families are broken.
“I hope we will become the people who provide care for the marginalized and the weak.” My family has been also touched by the problem of alcoholism. I believe only Jesus can help us to overcome these challenges and that he calls me to dedicate my life to proclaiming his love to all people.
2013, our priests have actively supported the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to fight for their dignity and justice. More people now trust the church, even those who previously identified themselves as atheists.
ONE: What is seminary life like? OB: It is totally different from how I am used to living. We have a wellstructured schedule, which has time for prayer, studies and recreation. It’s a real pleasure to observe how all of us at the seminary mature and grow spiritually and in our humanity. We are like a real family.The seminary puts special focus on how to live with God and our neighbor.
On the Maidan Square in Kiev, I had a chance to pray with people who have never prayed before. People asked me to teach them how to pray and how to live a life of a Christian. This is indeed wonderful! Being able to speak with such people is an incredible experience of God’s love in action. The recent events in the country have strengthened my faith and the faith of my neighbors.
ONE: How would you describe the faith of the people of Ukraine, especially now? Have you noticed a change since last winter?
ONE: What are your hopes for the future?
OB: The religious situation in Ukraine is very complex. We are very thirsty for a living faith. Even though most people are baptized in Orthodox churches they are not practicing Christians. In a parish where the priest is truly a man of God and lives his life virtuously, parishioners around him become true Christians. This is how my family became Christian. Because of the local priest we attended church services and started to receive the sacraments. The Lord has used the recent events in Ukraine to strengthen the faith of our people. First of all, Ukrainians, who for centuries were dominated by others, finally have realized they are one nation. Since November
OB: I hope I will successfully complete the seminary and that I will become a faithful and humble priest. I want to be a witness of God’s greatness, and I want to proclaim his Gospel. I already see how God gives us a chance to become authentic Christians. I hope we will become the people who provide care for the marginalized and the weak. I wish all Ukrainians could be like the Good Samaritan. … What else? I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. ONE: CNEWA supports seminarians around the world. What does this support mean to you and your brother seminarians?
OB: First of all, I ask for your prayers. When I realize someone on the other side of the planet is praying for me, it is very encouraging and a source of support. It’s wonderful to realize that through the prayer we are united, regardless of where we live. Our seminary is only four years old — it is a child learning how to live in this world. We are immersed in construction because there are no facilities for those seminarians coming next year. Our seminary leadership is constantly looking for funds. Most of us come from poor families and we cannot pay for our room and board. For example, there is a family in the Czech Republic who supports me financially. We cannot say enough about people’s generosity and solidarity. I also would like to invite you to Kiev to our seminary — please visit us and see with your own eyes. There are many young people who want to know God, but are afraid to leave their usual corners of life. If you would come, it would also give me a chance to improve my English!
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on the world of CNEWA
Care for Marginalized
A Pictorial Journey to Jordan
here is a saying in Jordan: “If you are not a foreigner, you’re a stranger.” The implication is that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has opened its borders to welcome multitudes of refugees from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, and beyond. In the Middle East, Jordan is a beacon of hope for millions of people who have been forced to flee their homelands, and CNEWA stands with the local church in reaching out to these refugees. On a 4-8 May visit to the kingdom, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, experienced firsthand the best of how the church serves in the Middle East, where Christians represent a very small minority, and how CNEWA seeks to accompany the church in her ministry.
There were three principal aspects to his visit: providing health care to the poor, especially refugees; serving the spiritual needs of displaced and refugee families; and sustaining Christian communities, especially in rural Jordan. By supporting a network of hospitals, clinics and medical outposts, CNEWA offers not just basic medical support to the poor, but in the case of the Italian Hospital in Kerak, a town in the arid south of the country, the only venue to provide surgical procedures and cancer treatment in the region. To the worried mother with a sick child, to the wearied refugee who has lost everything and is malnourished, to the abandoned elderly with open sores, the church — through the hospital’s Comboni Sisters — offer a warm embrace. As the cardinal noted often, it is the loving hand and the gentle care of
the religious sisters who put the face of Christ on the work of the church. And CNEWA is privileged to assist them. That same loving attention is directed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to Iraqi and Syrian refugees living in Amman. They gather regularly for the Eucharist, religious education, cultural and linguistic classes — opportunities all to keep strong in the faith, to maintain their identity and dignity and to bolster their hope to return to their respective homelands. It was particularly impressive to see how the sisters have inspired the refugees to serve as teachers for the children, religious educators, sacristans and community workers. One of the Chaldean refugees serving as a catechist privately approached Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, New York, and
shared, perhaps for the first time, that he was interested in becoming a priest. The grace of the moment directed Bishop Murphy, who is also a member of CNEWA’s Board of Trustees, to share this with the local parish priest, the only priest to serve Jordan’s substantial Chaldean Catholic refugee community. We’ll leave this in God’s hands. The real energy of the church finds its focus in the Eucharist, and we experienced this on a visit to Ader. This is a village settled by Bedouin, one of the few towns in Jordan with a Christian majority, and represents a remnant of the nomadic shepherds who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem. Today, the faith is alive and vocations are numerous. We were privileged to participate in a First Communion Mass. This was no ordinary liturgy: Two
congregations in the village came together, one Melkite Greek Catholic and one Latin. The celebrant was Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Yaser al Ayyash; Cardinal Dolan presided; and the apostolic nuncio in Jordan, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, and Bishop Murphy concelebrated. The children were precious. They had even learned English to renew their baptismal promises before Cardinal Dolan. The liturgy may not have demonstrated the “perfect” order we might be used to, but it was certainly beautiful and inspiring. It was a shining CNEWA moment: our identity as Catholic, rooted and celebrated in the Eucharist. Before and after the liturgical celebration the children and the elders of the community formed an honor guard of welcome and gratitude. The local pastor, Abuna Boulos, expressed it best. “We love
Led by Cardinal Dolan, the CNEWA team visited health care apostolates of religious sisters in Zerqa, Amman and Kerak.
CNEWA, because you helped us to build our church and nourish our faith, and now we can continue on our own.” I pass on to all of you, our CNEWA family, the profound thanks of the poor in Jordan and the thanks of Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy. Especially, I share with you a warm embrace from the loving sisters in Jordan who form the front line of a serving church. May God bless you, and the labors of CNEWA in Jordan. Msgr. John E. Kozar
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A Pictorial Journey
In the heart of Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary provide a haven for Iraqi and Syrian refugees. The sisters offer counseling for family members suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, academic tutoring and catechetics for refugee children, and a safe house for young refugee women. There, in their convent known as the House of Mary, the sisters and the families they serve gathered around the altar for a special Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Murphy. Afterward, the families spent time with the CNEWA team, sharing stories, swapping hats and consoling one another.
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A Pictorial Journey
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The CNEWA team ended their pastoral visit to Jordan traveling to the village of Ader, which is inhabited by descendants of Christian nomadic shepherds. There, Cardinal Dolan presided at a First Communion Mass for Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic youth. The village celebration brought together Catholics and Orthodox, archbishops and nuncios, youngsters and grandparents. Many of the childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parents remarked it will be a day their children will never forget. The happy images from this Arab Christian village may help secure the memory of these moving days in the Holy Land in the minds and hearts of all those who shared in it.
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