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Winter 2014

God • World • Human Family • Church

Finding New Hope in India Crafting a Future in Georgia Caring for Egypt’s Children Discovering Jerusalem’s Armenians

one 34


Reaching the Unreached in India Focus on the world of CNEWA by John E. Kozar



A Place of Promise — and Providence Changing the lives of girls in northern India by Jose Kavi with photographs by John Mathew


Crafting a Future Young Georgians build a new life using an ancient art text and photographs by Molly Corso


Egypt’s Good Samaritans Christian initiatives change children’s lives by Amal Morcos


‘Living Here Is Complicated’ Jerusalem’s Armenians maintain their identity by Michele Chabin with photographs by Ilene Perlman

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DEPARTMENTS Connections to CNEWA’s world People Sonu Augustine by Don Duncan

t Children take a break at the Armenian School in the Old City of Jerusalem.



Volume 40 NUMBER 4

The children you help today can look forward to a better tomorrow In Canada, In the United States,





Front and Back: Children play in a remote village in northern India. Photo Credits Front and back covers, pages 3 (far right), 5, 34-39, John E. Kozar/CNEWA; pages 2, 3 (upper left), 25, 27-31, Ilene Perlman; pages 3 (upper right), 12-13, 15-17, Molly Corso; pages 3 (lower left), 6-7, 9-11, John Mathew; pages 3 (lower right), 21-23, Amal Morcos; page 4 (upper), Michael La Civita; page 4 (lower), Dalia Khamissy; pages 18-20, Sean Sprague; pages 32-33, Don Duncan. ONE is published quarterly. ISSN: 1552-2016 Publisher Msgr. John E. Kozar

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 Š2014 Catholic Near East Welfare Association. All rights reserved. Member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

Want your gift to live on? Remember CNEWA in your will Canada: 1-866-322-4441 United States: 1-800-442-6392


to CNEWA’s world

More Aid to Syrians With the onslaught of winter in the Middle East, CNEWA has stepped up its program to care for families displaced in Syria and those seeking refuge in Lebanon and Jordan. In December alone, funding partners in Europe — including Kindermissionswerk — awarded CNEWA grants in the amount of $222,972 to provide Syrian infants and school-age children with milk, diapers, winter clothing and school supplies. CNEWA’s assistance coincided with the United Nations World Food Program announcing the suspension of its voucher program, which fed more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, because of funding shortfalls. “For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter,” cites a World Food Program statement, “the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.” Syrian refugees living in camps and informal settlements depend on the assistance, as the host countries are overwhelmed by the enormity of need and resource shortfalls. The living conditions of the refugees are extremely precarious. Refugees lack proper housing, clothing and health care. To learn how you can help, visit WWW.CNEWA.ORG/WEB/HELPSYRIA.

A Visit to Long Island In December, Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Merrick, New York, invited CNEWA to better acquaint parishioners with the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and how they can help, particularly communities in Iraq and Syria. Hosted by the Rev. Charles Mangano, pastor of the Long Island parish, CNEWA’s Deacon Greg Kandra, who serves as multimedia editor, served and preached at that weekend’s Masses, inviting those in the pews to learn more about CNEWA’s work. The response was heartfelt and enthusiastic. If you would like CNEWA to visit your parish, please contact Development Director Norma Intriago at



Microcredit Program Honored In December, CNEWA’s Beirut office was honored by the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards Program as the most innovative microfinance institution in Lebanon. Four people who received microcredit loans through CNEWA won awards of excellence for their business enterprises, which stabilized their communities by offering employment. CNEWA is one of the leading organizations in microfinance in the region with more than $6 million in loans to more than 1,000 recipients through its 14 years of implementation. CNEWA’s program, with an overall 99 percent return on all loans, is among the highest anywhere.

To read more about the program and the awards, visit our blog ONETO-ONE at WWW.CNEWABLOG. ORG/WEB/CNEWAHONORED.

OUR WEBSITE OUR BLOG Update from Gaza To help children in Gaza cope with the effects of last summer’s war between Hamas and Israel, CNEWA has launched a series of programs that will aid some 10,000 children through Catholic schools, the Ahli Arab Hospital, the Y.M.C.A., and the clinics and vocational training centers of the Near East Council of Churches. The programs target children in areas of Gaza severely impacted by the violence, including Shajaia and Beit Hanoun. A team from CNEWA’s Jerusalem office has made three monitoring visits since the end of hostilities last summer. The team reports children are slowly trying to pick up the pieces and return to some normal life. As CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, puts it, “it is much easier to fix the stones and the infrastructure, but not the psychological damage of trauma,” especially among the children. Most of the programs will run through the end of the current school year. This involvement was made possible through a number of generous donors — including Kindermissionswerk, Misereor, Missio and the Raskob Foundation — which has made available some $500,000 to help children cope with the aftermath of war. Support for Dalits Some 195 youth from Dalit families — India’s so-called “untouchables” — are enrolled in an educational program in southern India supported by CNEWA. The project funds coaching classes and schooling to help those involved become eligible for jobs. Local bishops have all expressed deep appreciation of and support for this unique project, which is helping to improve the quality of life for families in some of the poorest parts of India.

Children in Need In his Christmas message to the world in 2014, Pope Francis spoke poignantly about the plight of the world’s children. He turned his thoughts toward “all those children who are killed and illtreated,” and asked for prayers for those who are victims of violence or persecution. In this edition of ONE, we also turn our attention to the children of CNEWA’s world, turning a light on those often hidden in the shadows — the smallest, weakest, poorest, most vulnerable. Thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s benefactors and the prayerful good works of our partners in the field — priests, religious and lay people — children who once would have been considered helpless and hopeless are receiving help, and discovering hope. It is the hope of children with special needs in Egypt, who are experiencing love and are learning skills at homes aptly named for the Good Samaritan; it is the hope of the victims of poverty and devastation in Georgia, who are finding a promising future in a craft from the past; and it is the hope of girls in India, who are receiving the priceless gift of education and, with it, dignity. To learn more, just turn the page. Our coverage begins on page 6.

Only on the Web


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There is more to discover about CNEWA’s world online: • “ Spotlight: Eastern Churches” offers links to profiles of the Eastern churches. Visit • R  eview CNEWA’s Annual Report for 2013-2014 at • A  tonement Friar Elias Mallon offers a perspective at





Children in Need

Place of Promise – and Providence A

A special village for girls is changing lives in northern India by Jose Kavi



Geghecik Yenoqian stands at the doorway of her home, built as a temporary shelter after the earthquake 25 years ago.


ister Merly Kattuvally had a hard time giving her charge a haircut. The 13-year-old, who suffers from severe visual and hearing impairments, squealed, shook her head and flailed her limbs violently every time the scissors touched her hair. Two girls held the hands of the child, named Kiran, while sister went to work, slowly and gently. An hour later, she was finished. “It was worth the trouble,” says Sister Merly, 57, under the shade of guava trees in her convent’s backyard. “She is our treasure and blessing.” Despite Kiran’s tantrums, Sister Merly’s voice rings with good cheer. “She has shown great improvement from the time she came to us eight years ago.” The haircut marks one more small triumph for a place that witnesses them daily. Administered by the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary’s Children’s Home specializes in care for the blind. It is one of the many initiatives that comprise a complex: San Joe Puram Children’s Village, sponsored by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Faridabad. San Joe Puram enables children with special needs to learn and grow together with other children. “She was like a lump of flesh,” Sister Merly recalls of Kiran’s arrival. “She had no reaction to anything. She would just sit in one place or crawl all over, whatever the time.” Since then, many sleepless nights have been spent attending to the girl. But after years of constant care, Kiran now responds when her name is called or when music is played. “She also makes the sign of cross,” adds sister, who acts as both the superior of St. Mary’s and vice principal of Infant Jesus Senior Secondary School, which is also a part of San Joe Puram. Such progress, slow but steady, has prompted Sister Merly to compare

Kiran to Helen Keller — an American woman who, despite being born blind and deaf, became a worldrenowned author and lecturer. In a larger sense, however, Kiran represents more than one girl’s triumph over adversity; she also symbolizes a quiet revolution San Joe Puram has triggered among women in underserved villages of the state of Haryana, in northern India. Whether she realizes it or not, Kiran is a sign of promise and possibility.


sgr. Sebastian Vadakkumpadan, San Joe Puram’s founder and director, believes Providence brought him to Chandpur, a sleepy village in the Faridabad district of Haryana.

p Msgr. Sebastian Vadakkumpadan, founder of San Joe Puram, stands among some of the center’s students. t Rev. Sebastian Theckanatha, left, continues the vision of the founder, lifting girls out of poverty.

“Chandpur is 52 kilometers [about 30 miles] south of central Delhi, but it is more than half a century behind in every aspect,” remarks the 73-year-old priest, who now serves as vicar general of the eparchy. A native of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, the priest came to Delhi in the early 1990’s to serve Syro-Malabar Catholics leaving Kerala in search of work in the capital. Charged with the belief that service to those in need is as



The CNEWAConnection

CNEWA has served the poor of

India since its founding in 1926, always channeling its efforts

through the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches

primarily in the southern Indian

state of Kerala. Now, as Kerala

prospers and the churches there flourish, CNEWA is reaching out

to those in need in the north of the subcontinent. Thanks to our

benefactors, CNEWA is providing assistance to the various

humanitarian and pastoral works of the Syro-Malabar Catholic

Eparchy of Faridabad, which sponsors San Joe Puram

Children’s Village, as well as

activities of the Syro-Malankara

Catholic Church and its apostolic visitor, Mar Barnabas Jacob.

Your generosity helps make this

possible. To learn how you can help grow the church in northern India,

call: 1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

much a part of pastoral care as celebrating the sacraments, he opened a school for children with special needs. “I had seen many families hiding their disabled children from the public. I wanted to bring those children into the mainstream.” Msgr. Vadakkumpadan founded an organization and named it after his favorite saint, St. Joseph. He



planned the school within Delhi, originally buying 18 acres of land. “Before signing the papers I had prayed to St. Joseph to allow the deal to go through only if it was God’s will,” he says. “The deal went through and we seriously set about opening the school.” The plan stalled two years later when the government informed the priest that he could not undertake any construction. “Many said the money had gone down the drain. But I was sure St. Joseph would not let me down.” After selling the property for twice the amount he had paid, the priest scouted for a larger plot in an area without the zoning restrictions that had halted the project’s progress. The search ended at Chandpur. Meanwhile, Msgr. Vadakkumpadan contacted 28 superiors of various congregations of women religious in the Syro-Malabar Church asking for help. Ten responded, offering personnel and funds. In 1996, San Joe Puram Children’s Village opened on a 27-acre plot. Its many homes shelter 106 girls with any number of special needs, including visual and hearing impairments; cerebral palsy or other developmental disorders; orphans; children of prisoners; and those who face other emotional or physical challenges. Now directed by the Rev. Sebastian Theckanath, the village is run by 36 sisters from 6 different congregations providing for the children’s needs. At the heart of the village is a grotto dedicated to the patronal saint. “Coming to Chandpur was indeed a blessing from St. Joseph,” Msgr. Vadakkumpadan says. Huddled around the grotto, stand Infant Jesus School, where some 1,300 children, including 100 girls from San Joe Puram, study, and the various houses for the children with special needs. Shaded by fruit trees and flowers, each house is entrusted

to the respective congregations of sisters who support the village. Sacred Heart Home shelters orphaned girls from the ages 3 to 18 under the loving guidance of four members of the Sacred Heart Sisters. The Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament care for hearing and speech impaired children at a home named Jeevandhara, or “flow of life.” Franciscan Clarist sisters work with developmentally and physically challenged girls at Vinayalaya, the “house of humility,” and another home named Rani Sadan, or “house of Rani.” India’s first community of women religious, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, run Chavara Sadan Girls’ Hostel, which provides a loving environment for children whose parents work farther afield. The main complex also includes Bathsaida Hospital, which attends to the health needs of the children as well as people from surrounding villages. An annex a few miles away is the site of San Joe Bhawan, a new facility staffed by the Preshitharam Sisters for women of 18 years and older in need of rehabilitative therapy. The Infant Jesus Kindergarten and a vocational training center are also nearby.


ather Vadakkumpadan believes San Joe Puram is one of the few institutions in India that offers an inclusive education — offering women with special needs opportunities to integrate eventually into the mainstream — and become agents of change and development. His z Tannu is a young resident at the village. u Sister Nancy George, the principal of the school at the village, has seen growth and improvement among the students.

“The sisters … make us look at our society with different eyes.”



Young residents gather outside the church in San Joe Puram for a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the sisters.

goal is ambitious: San Joe Puram strives to free society from the bondage of caste and race and create an India where empowered rural women can become policy makers. Such goals may sound utopian in a state such as Haryana, which has some 25 million people. According to the latest census data, from 2011, the state has just 879 women for every 1,000 men — the lowest such ratio in India, where the national average is 943. Some activists point to the murder of infant girls for such low numbers. Father Vadakkumpadan described how one nun working as a nurse in a village dispensary saved an infant girl. “The child’s grandmother took the baby in her hands and pretended



to show affection. But as she was about to put the child down she tried to hit its head on a table. The alert sister held her hand underneath,” he says, adding that the sister told the woman she would adopt the child. Sister Mancy Marotty, a member of the Kerala-based Preshitharam Sisters who serves San Joe Puram as a social worker, says many villagers consider daughters a burden as society requires the provision of a dowry at marriage. Women are also largely illiterate and confined, treated by their fathers and husbands as inferiors. “They appear with faces covered even before the male members in the family. They need men’s approval to do anything,” says Sister Mancy. While the literacy rate for men in Haryana is 86 percent, only 57 percent of women can read and write. The state also has the lowest enrollment of girls in school and

the highest female dropout rate in India. Father Theckanath says that he and the sisters have set out to counter this mindset by forming self-help groups for women. “We realized real change would come only through women. If women are educated they will improve the family and encourage a daughter’s education.” Over the past 18 years, San Joe Puram has managed to reach out to 20 surrounding villages and start more than 150 self-help groups. Linto Joseph, a social worker with San Joe Puram, claims such intervention has helped bridge the gaps in literacy and gender in those villages. “Our works have created a desire among girls to learn more.” Yet, he says, it will take more time to embolden women to assert their full equality. When Infant Jesus School first opened, only a few girls from the

villages enrolled. Now, girls make up more than one third of the external students. “People’s reluctance to spend money on a daughter’s education is slowly waning,” Mr. Joseph says. The villages have also witnessed a revolution in sanitation. A lack of bathrooms leaves women vulnerable to sexual assault. Volunteers from San Joe Puram encouraged the women of one village to take charge, traveling with them to apply for funds for more modern facilities. “The result: permission for 78 new toilets,” says Mr. Joseph. Volunteers have also helped to install hand pumps in 17 villages to combat water shortages, started outreach programs for girls who have dropped out of school, and provided bicycles to girls who live far from school. Such initiaves are lauded by men as well as women: Kanwar Virender Singh Bhati, head of Faizpur Khader village, praised San Joe Puram for helping to open his region to a different way of thinking. “Nobody has done as much as San Joe Puram has done for us,” says the 44-year-old lawyer, who has been associated with San Joe Puram since 1997. “They have worked for education, development, agriculture, cleanliness. We want our people and the country to progress in this pattern.”


s with the adults, important changes are visible among the San Joe Puram children, residents as well as village children attending the school. Diksha Sharma, a ninth grader, says the San Joe Puram children have made her more responsible and sensitive to others. “I am happy to study in a school that gives equal opportunities to all.” Her father was so impressed with Infant Jesus School that he has encouraged other villagers to send their daughters there.

You can help give hope to India’s children

Bhanu Prakash, a tenth grader, says it goes beyond textbooks. “The sisters give us more than book knowledge. They make us look at our society with different eyes.” One such insight was to think less about caste division. “I do not find any caste superior or inferior. I don’t bother about the caste of the one who sits near me in the class,” Bhanu says. This is an important step, according to Linto Joseph. “People live in joint families and fiercely cling to their caste identity,” he says, noting that Haryana often has reports of “honor killings” — a euphemism for parents or relatives killing young family members who dare to marry outside their caste. As with Diksha, Bhanu says life among the San Joe Puram children has given him a desire to help others. Both he and Diksha dote on Uma, a visually impaired girl in the tenth grade. “Uma sings and studies well. We never consider her ‘blind,’ ” Bhanu says. He recalls Uma going on rides with them at a class picnic. “Most children were terrified and

screaming, but Uma was cool. She is more courageous than us.” Diksha was thrilled when she was asked to take notes for Uma. “We have become close friends,” she says. Carmelite Sister Nancy George, the principal, is happy to see such developments among her students. She says village students vie with each other to help the children who reside at St. Joe Puram — they push wheelchairs, carry school bags and guide the visually impaired to various places in the school. The result, she believes, could help transform her country. “We are creating a new generation that is sensitive and caring.” Jose Kavi writes about social and religious issues in India from New Delhi. READ MORE FROM JOSE KAVI ABOUT THIS STORY ON OUR ONE-TO-ONE BLOG:

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Children in Need

Crafting a Future Young Georgians build a new life using an ancient art text and photographs by Molly Corso



he quiet in the enameling studio at Caritas Georgia’s youth center is nearly absolute, save for the faint scraping of metal and the occasional whoosh of the oven door. Three teenage girls work silently at their chipped wooden workbenches, pools of yellow light illuminating tiny jars of brightly colored powder and twists of glistening silver wire as the girls craft intricate designs. As the children work, the tiny bits of silver metamorphose from minute scraps to delicate pieces of jewelry, each fold of silver serving as a catch for bright powdered enamel, applied painstakingly one drop at a time with the pointed nub of a tiny paint brush. The finished product — cloisonné enamel, or minankari in Georgian — is an ancient decorative art form the girls’ distant ancestors once mastered and used to create stunning religious icons, mosaics and vibrant jewelry. It is also, hopefully, a means to a better future for these girls and dozens of other children in need who participate in such programs. The enamel studio is just one of several art workshops sponsored by Caritas Georgia — the social service network of Georgia’s Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Catholic churches — as part of its ongoing art therapy program for socially vulnerable children from the ages of 6 through 19. Caritas Georgia offers the children a safe and nurturing environment, and, for children who are interested in learning, skills they can carry with them through life. The program also offers children the opportunity to learn how to make traditional carpets, design decorative woodcrafts, make ceramics and even write icons. The arts program serves two purposes, according to Tamar Sharashidze and Davit



The CNEWAConnection

The church is helping revive a dying craft – and changing lives.

The charity of the various Catholic churches in Georgia — Armenian, Chaldean and Latin — Caritas

Georgia is a dynamic ministry driven by a team committed to serving the

poor as commanded by the Gospel. CNEWA has supported many of its creative initiatives, especially its outreach to children in need,

including its art therapy program;

emergency medical aid to families

impacted by war; and food and fuel for the “new orphans” of the

southern Caucasus, the elderly. Join CNEWA as it launches new initiatives to support the poor and marginalized in Georgia and neighboring Armenia. In the United States, call:

1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

Qarqarashvili, who manage the program. It provides muchneeded psychological therapy for the 120 children who come to the center — many of whom come from troubled families, where abuse or alcoholism has left them aggressive or withdrawn. And it can provide a way to earn money once children master the skills taught at the center and enter into adulthood. “In Georgia there are many traditional art forms, but we specifically chose the types of crafts that could earn a living,” notes Mr. Qarqarashvili.



“We chose the type of art work that is in higher demand.” Largely ignored for decades, traditional Georgian cloisonné enamel is making a comeback. Enamels — no matter how small — are suddenly big. What is also big is the impact this delicate form of artistry is having on a new generation of Georgians, who are seeing new hope and possibility emerge from an ancient craft.


he origins of cloisonné enameling are hazy; the art form seems to have first appeared in the ancient Near East. Rings dating to the 12th century B.C. — crafted using something akin to the technique — have been found in Cyprus. Examples of jewelry made with a relatively similar method have been found from ancient Egypt’s Middle Kingdom in 19th century B.C. Georgian artists and art historians believe the Georgian art of cloisonné enamel is one of the oldest, as is Georgia’s high art form of enamel mosaics. But the art seems to have been perfected around the end of the first millennium A.D. within the orbit of Byzantium, the Eastern Christian empire centered in the city of Constantinople. There, emperors were crowned with bands of gold that featured enameled icons and jewels, while in Georgia, precious icons were adorned with

enameled ornaments and icons — the famous Khakhuli Triptych, which enshrines an icon of the Virgin Mary, is perhaps the most monumental example. The technique was nearly lost, however, until one artist captivated a whole new generation of Georgians in the craft. A sculptor and enamel artist by training, David Kakabadze was asked by Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II to revive the dying Georgian art of cloisonné enamel — and to then teach the art form to a cloister of sisters of St. Nino Convent in the country’s remote southern Samtskhe Javakheti region. Mr. Kakabadze says Georgian enamel decorations are similar to those of Byzantium. The colors vary, however, and the Georgian method, especially for icons and high religious art, is more complicated. For consumers, cloisonné enamel has been making a noticeable comeback for the past decade, says Yulia Abramova, the enamel instructor at the Chaldean Catholic parish of Mar Shemmon Bar Sabbae in Tbilisi. A few decades ago, she explains, jewelry and other artwork made from enamel could only be found reliably in Mtskheta, Georgia’s ancient capital that remains the center of the Orthodox Church of Georgia.



1 An artist designs the compartments. 2 The artist applies a thin layer of glue

to the enamel.


3 The work is completed when the artist

applies the enamel before firing.

Create a brighter future for Georgia’s young people

Over the past decade, however, Georgians — and foreign tourists — have taken notice. The new demand and growing interest have created a potential niche for people seeking a profession, and churches are stepping in to help.


ou cannot just give someone a fish; you have to teach him to fish. This is our goal,” says Chorbishop Benjamin Beth Yadegar, a native of Iraq, who serves as pastor of Georgia’s only Chaldean Catholic parish. According to the priest, the Georgian Orthodox Church has already trained several women in the art of enamel jewelry and would like to train more. “Children, especially boys, do not have the means for higher education. Because parents have to pay for everything, it can make education unaffordable — especially for more than one child,” the priest says. “For this reason many boys don’t go to college, or they drop



out of school at 16. Their peers tease: ‘Why do want to go to school? That is for girls. You gotta drink, you gotta smoke, go out and have fun.’ “So we tell these boys: ‘Come on, come with us. You want to work somewhere? You need some money for cigarettes?’ ” For the boys, wood crafting classes with Chorbishop Yadegar — a master carver who studied with his carpenter father — and driving tests to help secure invaluable driving licenses have helped turn lives around. For the girls, on the other hand, Chorbishop Yadegar is betting on enamel jewelry making. The amount girls can earn after completing their free studies is hard to predict; enamel jewelry in Georgia sells for as little as a few dollars in the city shops to tens of thousands in upscale galleries and charity auctions. But the simple act of earning money — and the ability to do so — is invaluable, the priest says.

“When you can go to the bazaar and buy what you want with your money, you are already someone,” he notes. “When a woman can go buy what she wants without having to ask for money from her husband or her family because she has work, she has money, the relations change in the family — there is more respect. Her husband sees she is helping to pay for the electricity, for the gas.” And, for women who are not yet married, he adds, learning a skill such as enamel work can make them more cautious about rushing into a marriage just for the sake of getting married. This is an important shift in mentality in Georgia, the priest adds, where domestic abuse remains prevalent and women are often trapped in abusive relationships because they cannot financially support themselves or their children. That shift in attitude — not just about money, but also about personal behavior — is an integral part of art therapy, noted Caritas Georgia’s Tamar Sharashidze. “Our children often come from very troubled families, and many children suffer from psychological problems,” she says. The art programs provide a therapeutic creative outlet, and can contribute to a vital sense of structure in life. “If a child comes to us and is behaving poorly or aggressively, after some time this slowly improves,” she reports. “A child who before perhaps couldn’t sit still for five minutes, after six months is calmly sitting and creating something. This is very important.” Artist David Kakabadze also stresses that a degree of stillness is necessary to produce quality enamel jewelry — just as a strong spiritual life and a real respect for the church is necessary to create enamel mosaics and icons. Ketevani Grdzelishvili, one of the enamel instructors at Caritas Georgia’s Youth Center, agrees that once

Young Georgians gather at tables at the Caritas Georgia center to create cloisonné enamel jewelry.

people have the skill to make jewelry, they are a step closer to a better life. “This provides them with the means to earn a minimum level of income,” she says, adding that the demand is high as classes in enamel arts are otherwise expensive. For those vulnerable teenagers participating in the program sponsored by Caritas Georgia, and the young adults attending the workshops at Mar Shemmon Bar Sabbae Church, there are no expenses even for materials, which are costly. That means these programs are very expensive for Caritas Georgia and the parish to maintain. At the Chaldean parish, Yulia Abramov can only work effectively with one person at a time in a spare room in the parish center, which has been outfitted with a work bench and a small stove. However, unlike the Caritas Georgia Youth Center, the parish does not have a proper oven to finish the pieces; Ms. Abramov has to take them to a different studio for completion.


n a windy Monday afternoon in December, the girls at Caritas Georgia are making pendants — on other days other students work on earrings and icons during their time in the studio. For Keti, 18, busy creating a tranquil blue and green pendant, the work is not hard and she enjoys being able to produce something with her hands. Beka stumbled on enamel work three years ago when a friend brought him to check out the workshop. He has never looked back. The 19-year-old is already selling his enamel jewelry to tourists — mostly Ukrainians, he says — and he is even considering making it into a career. As he works in the studio, he ignores phone calls and other distractions to concentrate on his project: a dainty pair of earrings in cobalt blue. The final result will be more than just jewelry. He is crafting his own future.

“I like the process,” he says with a bit of a smile, “putting into realization what you imagined you wanted to create.” The writing of Tbilisi-based photojournalist Molly Corso has appeared on She is a regular contributor to ONE. She last wrote about the “new orphans” of Georgia in the summer 2014 edition of ONE.



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Children in Need

Egypt’s Good Samaritans How Christian initiatives in Egypt change children’s lives by Amal Morcos




nder a bright sun, the laughter of children echoes in a grassy playground bordered by lush palm trees. Located in the desert oasis of El Faiyum in central Egypt, the Good Samaritan Home has become an oasis for children, Christian and Muslim, whose families live in the impoverished farming villages that border the Nile. Three children gather around a Little Sister of Jesus, Nirmeen Naseen, playing peek-a-boo and pulling at her habit. She patiently speaks to each child by name; Madonna, 8, has developmental deficiencies; Marseille, 12, has autism; and Kyrillos, 9, has Down syndrome. “Some people in our society feel we are wasting our time with such children,” says 27-year-old Sister Nirmeen, who has worked with the children at Good Samaritan for four years. “But I accept the children no matter where they are, and I show them respect for who they are.” They are among the fortunate few. In Egypt, a country beset by extreme poverty and illiteracy, strong support in rearing and educating children is not assured to all, let alone those with special needs. The difficulties do not end there. Egyptian public institutions have had little to offer children with special needs, even relatively speaking. Educational authorities have often “resisted or refused access” to disabled children, a 2004 World Bank study noted, and UNICEF cites childhood disability as one of the leading causes of dropout or failure to enroll. Moreover, any disability carries a cultural stigma in Egypt, which further marginalizes this segment of the population. As a result, Egypt faces a lack of specialists, teachers and child care workers with the proper

training to assist children with special needs.


hile it may be a challenge for any child merely to be a child in Egypt, the challenges are much greater among children who are orphaned, poor or disabled. Exacerbating these difficulties are questions of religious identity among Egypt’s Christian minority. Though Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians form the largest church in the Middle East — which includes some 9 million people, about a tenth of Egypt’s burgeoning population of 87 million — Sunni Muslims dominate the nation. Against this backdrop, a number of Catholic priests and sisters are dedicating their lives to giving Egypt’s children with special needs an opportunity to have not only a childhood, but a future. At the same time, they are building bridges — between Islam and Christianity, between those with and without impairments, and perhaps most poignantly, between parents and their own children.


he Good Samaritan Home was founded in 1996 by a Coptic Catholic priest, the Rev. Andreas Yusef, as a free dispensary and literacy training center for local villagers. An orphanage for children with special needs and a kindergarten were added in 2005. After Father Yusef died, the Rev. Estafanos Ishaq was asked to take on the apostolate. After serving for several years as a teacher in Barcelona, Spain, he had wished to return to his home region of El Faiyum to serve the poor. Today, Good Samaritan provides a school for 13 children with special needs, a kindergarten for about 110 children, and monthly financial support to widows and fatherless children.



The CNEWAConnection

CNEWA is deeply concerned

about the welfare of children with special needs in Egypt, whether those needs are physical,

emotional or spiritual. From their very beginnings, CNEWA has

supported both child care facilities named for the Good Samaritan profiled in this article, providing funds for operations as well as

equipment for physical therapy programs.

CNEWA also helps other child

care institutions of the churches in Egypt, including the Santa Lucia

Home in Abou Kir, which provides a loving environment for youth with visual impairments.

To become a part of this tradition of loving support, call:

1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

The staff carefully evaluates a child’s ability before determining the best course of care. Four fulltime teachers instruct the children in tasks for everyday living, such as personal hygiene and how to dress themselves. The children are also given a basic education in math and Arabic. Specialists are brought in to provide one-on-one sessions for physical, speech and occupational therapy. Activities change every half hour, with an emphasis on performing simple tasks that will give a child a



sense of success and acceptance. “Mariam had been very withdrawn because she didn’t feel that her parents accepted her, nor did she accept herself,” says Sister Nirmeen of a developmentally delayed girl who loves to make beaded necklaces and bracelets. “But when she discovered that she likes to make jewelry, it was as if she found her place in the world.” Sister Nirmeen then points to Madonna, a pretty girl with a mischievous smile, who enjoys nothing better than running around in the playground with the other children. Madonna was only able to attend Good Samaritan after her mother could finally accept and admit her daughter’s disability. Because the stigma of disability can extend to an entire family, it is not uncommon for a child to be hidden in the home out of fear of the

community’s reaction. Some parents may believe their child’s disability is a sign of God’s judgment against them. Such concerns may also lead parents to believe nothing can be done to better their child’s life. “A key way that we have been able to help the children is to teach the parents,” says Sister Nirmeen. This includes encouraging constructive interactions, limiting or eliminating the use of corporal or verbal punishment, which can have long-term negative effects. “In their homes, there is no system,” Sister Nirmeen says, “so we show them how to keep their child busy with a variety of activities so that they don’t get into trouble.” Being able to bring their child to Good Samaritan for the half day of schooling can also lessen the stress on parents, helping them to be more relaxed at home.

Coptic Catholic priests and nuns are dedicating their lives to giving Egypt’s special needs children a chance. While Christian instruction is not a part of the curriculum, the spirit of Good Samaritan Home is rooted in St. Luke’s Gospel account of the parable about loving one’s neighbor. “Muslims in this region are known to be strong supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Father Ishaq, referring to Egypt’s largest Islamist political party, which came to power in 2012 but was toppled by the Egyptian military in 2013. “If parents thought we were giving Christian instruction,” adds one teacher, “they would not send their children here. And in many ways, Muslims need our services even more than the Christians.”


gypt’s orphaned children face many of the same difficulties that impact the country’s special needs children: poverty, neglect and, especially, social stigma. However, because Egyptian law bans the adoption of children — irrespective of religion — orphans are fated to spend their entire childhood living in an institution, without ever knowing the security of family life. But in Cairo — some 62 miles from the desert oasis of El Faiyum — another Good Samaritan is trying z Children complete their homework. u Rev. Kamil William is pictured with two of his charges who live at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Cairo.



You can be a Good Samaritan, too Help Egypt's children in need

to change that. The men and women at the Good Samaritan Orphanage, another home for children sponsored by the Coptic Catholic Church, want to satisfy much more than a child’s need for food, shelter and clothing. They are pouring their hearts out so these children may experience the love and guidance of a true mother or father figure. The Rev. Kamil William, 62, takes a few visitors on a tour of the three-story building located in the middle-class El Massaken Cheraton neighborhood that provides a home for 37 orphans. Small children and teenagers alike step out of their bedrooms into the main hallway. Some offer to shake hands with visitors while others start plying the priest, who runs the orphanage, with requests. As he makes his way down the stairs, he addresses each one personally, teasing the older ones with affectionate nicknames while patting the face of a small girl clinging to his robes.



Father Hanna “felt that a child who lost a parent had a gap in his or her life, and he wanted to fill that gap,” says Father William, referring to the priest who founded Good Samaritan. Father Bishoi Ragheb Hanna, who had studied theology in Rome before serving as a parish priest for the Coptic Catholic community in New York City, always dreamed of starting an orphanage in his native Egypt. In 2004, financed in part with support from New York’s Copts, and with the blessing of his church’s head, the late Coptic Catholic Patriarch Stephanos II, Father Hanna converted a section of a center for disabled people into a home. Cairo’s Good Samaritan is unique among Egyptian orphanages. Unlike other Christian institutions that are staffed by either priests or sisters, Good Samaritan includes both. “Father Hanna wanted children to have a father and a mother figure,” explains Father William. The orphanage’s mix of

boys and girls living in the same facility is also highly unusual for a country with conservative attitudes toward gender such as Egypt, but Father Hanna believed the children would greatly benefit from having both brothers and sisters. Each day begins with morning prayer, and then the children leave to attend Cairo’s free public schools. When they are ready to go to college or vocational school, Good Samaritan allows them to continue to live at the orphanage and pays their full tuition. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated twice weekly. Father William teaches the catechism to the children — who are all Christian — and a priest from outside the orphanage comes to hear confessions. Most of the children have at least one living parent, but are placed at Good Samaritan because that parent cannot financially support them. Eight of the children have had a parent convert to Islam. Egyptian law considers children Muslim if a parent converts to

Islam, and grants that parent sole custody. A Christian spouse who wishes his or her children to remain Christian in the eyes of the law has no choice but to place them in a Christian orphanage. Children whose parents convert to Islam are deeply affected by it. “You can be a thief or a murderer, but within the Christian community in Egypt you cannot have a parent who has converted to Islam,” says Sister Terese Dorias, 52, one of the three Elizabethan Franciscan sisters on staff. “This could interfere with your ability to find a suitable marriage partner.” Consider, for example, the case of 15-year-old Yousef. Yousef’s mother converted to Islam and left his father, a construction worker in a small village in Upper Egypt. His father then placed Yousef and his younger sister Demiana at Good Samaritan, where they have been living for the last six years. He found a job as a security guard in Cairo and lives near the orphanage so he can see Yousef and Demiana

regularly. However, when Yousef first came to Good Samaritan, he was severely withdrawn. Three years ago, Sister Terese was brought to Good Samaritan specifically to work alongside children such as Yousef and to help them emotionally adjust to their life circumstances. “I sensed Yousef was missing the love of his mother,” says Sister Terese. Her presence has made a world of difference for him. “I wash his clothes. I iron them. If he is sad and I notice it, I ask him about it and he opens up to me.” “She treats me like a son,” Yousef says. “I found someone I can confide in and someone who cares for me. I sense that she is there for me.” Over the last few years, Yousef has excelled in math, science and soccer, and is particularly gifted at drawing. When Father William offered to arrange for him to receive private drawing lessons, Yousef replied that he would prefer to be a doctor.

p Sister Terese Dorias is one of three sisters who helps care for the children at the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Cairo. z Best friends Mariam and Demiana share a happy moment at the Good Samaritan Orphanage.

“I told him that was fine,” says the priest. “You can be a doctor who is also a great artist.” Amal Morcos is a freelance writer who covers the Middle East. She last wrote about Syrian refugees in the autumn 2014 edition of ONE.


__ __ __ __ __ orphans



Accompanying Churches

‘Living Here Is Complicated’ Jerusalem’s Armenians maintain their identity by Michele Chabin with photographs by Ilene Perlman


happy cacophony of Arabic, Armenian, English and Hebrew floats through the colorful hallways of the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School of Jerusalem, where 120 students spend four periods a day, every day, intensively learning the languages — in addition to math, science and Armenian history. That the school, the pride of Jerusalem’s tiny Armenian Christian community, places such an emphasis on language skills is a matter of necessity, says Mihran Der Matossian, vice principal. “Our students learn Armenian because it is our national language and our identity. Students take the British matriculation exams, so they need to know English. And they learn Hebrew and Arabic on a high level because we live among Israelis and Palestinians and it is difficult to mingle and find a job without these languages,” Mr. Der Matossian says. For Jerusalem’s Armenian Christians, maintaining their rich Armenian heritage, where the dominant Israeli and Palestinian cultures collide, is a formidable task. This challenge has increased of late as the number of Armenians, as with those of other local Christian communities, has been decimated by decades of emigration. Of the world’s estimated 10 million Armenians, an estimated



600,000 live in the Middle East — not including up to a million Turks who conceal their Armenian origins and their Christian faith. Prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Armenian community in what was known as British Mandate Palestine included up to 15,000 people. Fewer than 3,000 remain, with about a thousand living in the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and the rest in Bethlehem, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramallah and Ramleh, where, according to church sources, viable communities have evolved around the nucleus of Armenian culture — a church or monastery. Today the vast majority of Armenians in Israel and Palestine are “Western Armenians,” that is, descendants of Armenians who hail from Anatolia, speak a dialect known as Western Armenian and have a long history in the region. Some have ancestors who survived the mass killings of Armenians perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I, and sought refuge in British-controlled Jerusalem. Following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, they were joined by more than 1,500 “Eastern Armenians,” men and women from the former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic who had married Soviet Jews and settled in Israel with their spouses.

Uniting this small flock is the head of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarch Nourhan, and the Brotherhood of St. James, a monastic community of the Armenian Apostolic patriarchate with some 60 members. Together with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Armenian Patriarchate functions as a custodian of the major holy sites associated with the life of Christ, especially the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Armenians have been associated with the Holy Land’s most sacred Christian sites since the fourth century, when pilgrims from the Armenian kingdom, the first state to declare Christianity its official religion in the year 301, traveled to the holy city of Jerusalem. Between the fourth and eighth centuries Armenians constructed and decorated some 70 monasteries, which housed priests and monks as well as pilgrims who continued to journey long after the Muslim Arab invasion in the seventh century. Priests celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Sts. James in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Geghecik Yenoqian stands at the doorway of her home, built as a temporary shelter after the earthquake 25 years ago.

The CNEWAConnection

Warm relations, official and

personal, between CNEWA and

Jerusalem’s Armenian community stretch back decades. While programmatic support in

Jerusalem is modest — more recent assistance includes

renovations to the Armenian

Apostolic convent, support for

youth formation programs and the Old City’s Armenian scout troop — CNEWA’s support for the

Armenian people extends from

caring for Armenian refugees in

Lebanon fleeing war in Iraq and Syria to providing support for

programs aiding the youth and the elderly in Armenia proper.

To learn how you can assist CNEWA in this important work, call:

1-800-442-6392 (United States) or 1-866-322-4441 (Canada).

Although there has been a continuous presence since, the Armenian community has never recovered from the first ArabIsraeli war. Many Armenians suffered the same losses as Arab Christians and Muslims, fleeing first to Lebanon or Jordan. From there, they left eventually for points west. Today, those who remain fear their children will do the same. While the Armenian community’s elders encourage the younger generation to obtain a higher education, they acknowledge many



of those who go abroad will be reluctant to return. “A lot of my friends have left, mostly to Europe and the United States, and I doubt they’ll come back,” says Hasmig Kalaydjian, an Armenian teacher in her 20’s pursuing a degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Living here is complicated.” “Once the young have experienced life abroad, it’s hard to come back,” acknowledges Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, the Armenian patriarchate’s director of ecumenical affairs. “There is always the fear of another war.” The shortage of affordable housing in Israel is another cause of emigration, and not just for Armenians. The patriarchate, which already houses more than 500 people in the Armenian Quarter compound, lacks the financial resources to help all those in need of housing — the patriarchate is largely dependent on the rental income it receives from its properties and support from the Armenian diaspora. As with other churches in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, the Armenian patriarchate must secure visas for its foreign clergy and seminarians from Israel’s Interior Ministry. It can take months or even years to obtain a visa for a student or teacher from Armenia. Even priests who are permanently based in Israel must extend their visas once a year, Patriarch Nourhan of Jerusalem told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in January 2013. Making matters worse: Christians have become targets of young ultraOrthodox Jewish extremists, who sometimes spit on priests in the streets of the Old City. “It’s a real problem,” says the Rev. Dirran Hagopian, a young priest, standing outside the Armenian Cathedral of Sts. James in Jerusalem. “Two days ago, I was

with a group of pilgrims from Armenia when a yeshiva student spit on me. When a policeman arrived, he asked to see the spit. “There’s no point in filing a complaint because we know nothing will be done.” “They do it because they don’t get a proper education about Christians, and based on hatred of Christians due to Christian antiSemitism,” says Rabbi Ron Kronish, founder of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, which has organized ChristianJewish encounters and solidarity visits to various churches to combat the problem. A police spokesman said the police act on every complaint, but that few have been filed. “I’m afraid that if things go on like this, there won’t be any Christians left in this country,” the patriarch says. “Nobody knows anything about Armenia or Armenians. “We don’t belong to the community — they don’t [accept] us as members. We are third-class citizens.” Most Armenians tend to be more sanguine about the many challenges they face, finding solidarity in a deep sense of community. That feeling is especially strong in Jerusalem, where the majority of Armenians reside in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter, a picturesque neighborhood occupying a sixth of the city’s territory. Its high stone walls insulate them from the outside world, even before its massive iron gates shutter at 10 p.m. Outside of approved organized tours, most of the quarter is off limits to visitors. While community members work and shop outside the walls, they feel most at home within the quarter, which is a monastic compound owned by the patriarchate. Here, their children attend school and play soccer while

“I'm afraid if things go on like this, there won’t be any Christians left in this country.”



“We don’t try to convert people. Our goal is to keep Armenian faith and identity.”



adults socialize at community functions and pray at the 12thcentury Cathedral of Sts. James, dedicated to the apostles James, “the brother of the Lord,” and James, the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee. According to tradition, the cathedral marks the site of the Council of Jerusalem (circa 50 A.D.). The narrow road leading to the Armenian Quarter is lined with shops, where Armenian artisans create and sell high-quality ceramics valued by locals, pilgrims and tourists. Working alongside her husband in their ceramics store, Sonia Sandrouni says her children have been positively affected by the patriarchate’s efforts to instill pride in the younger generation. “We have the school, which teaches Armenian history, language and culture,” she notes. “We have Armenian clubs for children and teenagers. I don’t know what we would do without them.” But there are some problems even the church can’t solve, Mrs. Sandroni adds.

“Some leave the country to seek better opportunities and that concerns us a lot,” she explains. “So does the fact that although we want our kids to marry other Armenians, there aren’t enough young people for this to happen.” Hasmig Kalaydjian, the teacher attending Hebrew University, agrees. “We went to the same school and grew up as friends. We’re like sisters and brothers, so it’s difficult to think of the boys as future husbands.” Archbishop Aris says that although the patriarchate makes efforts to bring together young people from the various communities for social gatherings, it is not always sufficient. A “very small” number of intermarriages between Armenians and local Arab Christians from other denominations do occur, he says, but Western Armenians almost never marry non-Christians. “We don’t try to convert people,” he says, “but if there is an intermarriage, we ask the non-

Armenian to go through the process of connecting to the Armenian Apostolic Christian faith and sign a declaration that he or she is joining the church. Our goal is to keep Armenian faith and identity.” “Intermarriage is one of the major issues we face,” explains an Armenian Jerusalemite speaking on condition of anonymity. “One of my daughters is engaged to an Arab Christian from Haifa. A second has a Russian Orthodox boyfriend.” Some community members say the mother’s background often determines how children will be reared. “When the mother is Armenian, she instills Armenian culture and values,” says Mihran Der Matossian, vice principal of the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School, which enrolls children whose parents are non-Armenian. Priests greet the faithful after the Sunday morning liturgy at Sts. James Monastery.



Christians in the Middle East can know a better tomorrow because of your gift today

Fostering Armenian pride is more difficult in Haifa. A religiously diverse city in northern Israel, Haifa’s once bustling Armenian community nearly vanished soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “The Armenian school that existed until 1948 closed and never reopened,” notes the Rev. Tirayr Hovakimian, pastor of Haifa’s only Armenian church, dedicated to St. Elijah. Without an Armenian school, the community’s 250 Israeli-born Western Armenians and more than 1,500 Soviet-born Eastern Armenians have no choice but to send their children to either Arab Christian or Jewish schools. “Most children attend Arab schools because they’re Christian schools, but there are some who are married to Jewish women and more integrated into Israeli life,” Father Hovakimian says. The threat of assimilation poses a real problem, the priest notes. “We



are trying our best to help families stay Armenian, not to integrate into Jewish or Arab society.” Toward this end, the old stone church runs a youth club three times a week in the evening. Here, the Armenian-born Father Hovakimian and older members of the community teach the youngsters basic, intermediate and advanced Armenian. The pastor has also enlisted the community in the renovation of the church. Anonymous donations have funded repairs to the external staircase, air conditioning and heating systems, and the installation of a cross mosaic, created by community members. Yet, some degree of accommodation for local custom is unavoidable. “Here, Sunday is a work day,” Father Hovakimian says. Accordingly, weekly liturgies are held on Saturday. Zaven Panoian says his family does its best to maintain its culture while integrating into Israeli society. The Panoians sent their daughter to a Hebrew-language Jewish school. “My wife, who attended the Armenian school in Jaffa, doesn’t know Arabic all that well,” he says. However, he does not believe this has hindered her. “The Jewish school gave her the tools to function in Israel, where we live. I have cousins who went to Christian schools, and they have even more difficulty finding jobs.” After his daughter graduated from high school, Mr. Panoian encouraged her to perform a year of Israeli National Service — an alternative to the military service Israeli Jews are required to complete, but Muslims and Christians are not. “She’s a volunteer at our local hospital, Rambam Hospital,” Panoian says. “The experience is giving her life tools.” This also makes her eligible for a variety of government benefits.

Maro Zakarian is a Jerusalemite Armenian who met her Armenianborn husband during a multi-year stay in the United States. She ultimately moved back with her husband and daughter to be close to their families in the Armenian Quarter. She believes it’s possible to have a foot in more than one culture. “Our community is very Westernized, and in some ways it’s easier to work on the Jewish side because of the social benefits, like universal health care and pensions,” Mrs. Zakarian says. “Every day a woman comes to the home of my elderly aunt and helps her.” Mrs. Zakarian, who works at a Palestinian embroidery cooperative, says she is content with her life. “This is our home; I feel comfortable here, even with the challenges,” she says. “This is our community; I attended the Armenian school. We are one big family.” The only thing missing from Mrs. Zakarian’s day-to-day life is her daughter, who moved back to the United States to attend college. Her husband, Michael Zakarian, feels that Christians in the Holy Land are being squeezed from all sides. But Jerusalem, to him, is home. “Jerusalem is where my greatgreat grandfather lived. When I go to the cemetery, I see generations of my family,” he says. In his view, to leave would be unthinkable. “It is,” he concludes, “a matter of continuity.” Jerusalem-based journalist Michele Chabin has written for USA TODAY, National Catholic Register, Jewish Journal and ONE. MICHELE CHABIN HAS MORE AT OUR BLOG, ONE-TO-ONE: jerusalem

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A Beacon of Hope in Jerusalem


ne of the central challenges facing any diaspora community is preserving the vitality of its native culture so it may be transmitted to future generations. In Jerusalem, one institution that preserves the richness of Armenian culture from generation to generation is Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School, in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter. Thanks to an enthusiastic and devoted staff, the students that pass through the school encounter and absorb Armenian heritage as a vivid, dynamic experience. They learn the Armenian language and speak it fluently, build an intimate relationship with the Armenian literary and musical canons, cultivate a thorough understanding of Armenian history and religion, and put on colorful and lively celebrations to mark Armenian national days. The students are also active in promoting awareness of the Armenian Genocide, as well as other causes that rank high on the agenda of the worldwide Armenian community. Sts. Tarkmanchatz, which in 2013 commemorated its 85th anniversary, is a unique institution in the regional landscape. School assemblies typically begin with the singing of the Armenian national anthem, and images of Mount Ararat adorn the walls of the school. On field trips both inside and outside of Jerusalem, students from the senior class wave the red, blue and orange Armenian flag, a gesture that provokes curiosity from surrounding onlookers and instills pride in the younger students. Additionally, students graduate from the school having learned four languages — Arabic, Armenian, English and Hebrew — from as early as kindergarten and the first grade. The rationale behind this ambitious component of the school curriculum is as much practical as it is academic: to enable the students to navigate the multicultural landscape of Jerusalem, and to furnish them with the broadest possible tool set in order to

BY AMIR AFSAI maximize their options after graduation. Indeed, the school has seen many of its graduates go on to colleges and universities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Armenia and all across Europe and North America. The school’s principal, the Rev. Norayr Kazazian — or “Hayr Sourp” (holy father), as he is often called in Armenian — is the figure most responsible for molding the school’s character into what it is today. Apart from carrying out his administrative duties, he serves also as a moral and spiritual beacon for the students. His vision of Sts. Tarkmanchatz recognizes that one of the greatest assets a community has is its youth. “Before I see in our students the future of the Armenian nation, I see them as model members of the Jerusalem Armenian community,” Father Kazazian says. “It is important for Jerusalem Armenians to have welleducated students prepared for life in the community as upstanding adults and ready to pass on their experience to the generations coming after them.” With a solid foundation rooted in the past, a bold curriculum formulated to address the needs of the present, and a firm commitment to building for the future, Sts. Tarkmanchatz is ensuring that Jerusalem’s Armenian community will endure for posterity, and that its culture will thrive in the process. Amir Afsai is a teacher at Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School and also teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.



from our world SA: In my village, there were Christians and Hindus in equal numbers. The Hindu temple was so close to my house, we could hear the prayers. Many of my close friends were Hindus. It was a very lovely atmosphere: peaceful coexistence. ONE: Did the multiplicity of faiths ever confuse you in your own faith?

Sonu Augustine by Don Duncan

Sonu Augustine, 46, arrived in Qatar from Kerala, India, 20 years ago. There he married and built a life, and now rears two children. A legal advisor in a local Qatari company, he is one of an estimated 400,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the Persian Gulf region. As secretary of the SyroMalabar Cultural Association in Qatar, he is at the forefront of a coterie of lay Syro-Malabars pushing for better access to services and pastoral care in their own Catholic tradition within the Gulf region’s Latin-dominated Catholic Church. Mr. Augustine recently met with ONE magazine’s Don Duncan to discuss the challenges of faith and culture in the Persian Gulf region.



ONE: Tell us about your family, and how it shaped your faith and your life. Sonu Augustine: I belong to a traditional Catholic family with an ardent vigor for faith. Of my father’s five brothers and four sisters, three became priests and one became a religious sister. Prayer was present in my family, so it was quite natural for me to inherit this faith — my main source of strength in my day-to-day life. ONE: You grew up in Kerala among many Indian Catholics. Did you experience other religions in your youth?

SA: When I reached college, I began to read texts from other religions — especially from Hinduism. The way Hinduism perceives God attracted me; in Hinduism there is only one allencompassing God, whereas in Christianity, God is manifested as a person, in Jesus. This created a friction in me and the further reading led me to atheism for a short time. But the faith I practiced at the very beginning of my life came to my rescue during a hard time, in which I found myself answerless, helpless. It can be confusing during our formative years when we begin to question our beliefs and others’ beliefs and wonder which one is correct. But once we mature, we realize that coexistence with other religions is of great benefit for us, even for understanding our own faith. ONE: Does this experience make you wary for the faith of your two children? SA: As I bring up my two girls, I am very anxious and very cautious that such a phase of moving away from faith shall not happen in their lives. Faith is real. Faith is required. Faith is inseparable from any human being. So, my wife and I, we cautiously lead our children in the path of faith. Whenever we have an example of God’s presence, we say, “praise the Lord for this,” so that the

Lord is there with us in every moment. We go to church and we regularly receive the sacraments. Every day we have prayer in this house. ONE: Does your existence far from the core of the Syro-Malabar Church make it harder for you to transfer your traditions to your children? SA: We have to work assiduously to make sure that the children are growing up in our faith. Growing up in India means that there is a communal family structure. Grandparents live with the family, brothers and sisters are always nearby, and there are Christian neighbors and a parish with activities of all types. In Qatar, however, it is much different. Even if I go regularly to church here, Syro-Malabar Catholics do not have adequate access to services in our tradition in the Gulf. The children miss out. ONE: So you have attended the Latin-rite Mass for want of the Divine Liturgy in the Syro-Malabar’s tradition? SA: For a starving man, whatever food he gets is good food. When he has options, he will opt for the best food. It was a situation like that when I first got here. ONE: What have you done to promote your own Catholic tradition in your community? SA: We have regular activities in the church — social activities, cultural programs, charity drives. Children are witnessing how parents are contributing toward a better society by helping people and by creating new things. These are important mental, moral and social lessons. This helps compensate for the shortfall in access to services and pastoral care.

“My life in Qatar helped me to become a more spiritual and faith-filled man.” ONE: Thanks in large part to lay advocacy, the first and only SyroMalabar Catholic church in the region was erected in 2009. How did you achieve that? SA: In 1999, we started the SyroMalabar Cultural Association. We approached the Indian Embassy for visas for our priest, and then priests began to make regular visits. This is the first time I became actively involved in the activities of the church, writing letters to various members of the Catholic hierarchy — from Pope John Paul II to the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, to the local bishops here in the Gulf. I would draft at least one such letter per month. ONE: What’s the next challenge for your community? SA: A pressing challenge is the formation of a Syro-Malabar exarchate [a jurisdiction similar to and apostolic vicariate] here. We feel the Holy See will one day declare an

exarchate and we feel that Qatar is the ideal place for its seat. ONE: Would you say your experience in Qatar has brought you closer to your faith and your church? SA: Back in India, I was never part of a minority. It never occurred to me that I would have to work to preserve my heritage until coming to Qatar. In the beginning, I wondered: “What is the difference between all these Catholic churches? Their churches look the same. The liturgies are practically the same. Jesus is one. So, why the differences?” But I soon recognized that these different traditions each have value. Becoming active in church life here has taught me about the relationship one should have with God, and through this I continue to grow. So in a way, my life in Qatar helped me to become a more spiritual and faith-filled man.




on the world of CNEWA

Accompanying Churches

Reaching the Unreached in

India a pictorial journey


recently returned from a pastoral visit to India and I would like to share with you some uplifting and exciting highlights of my visit. By way of a little background, CNEWA’s work in India focuses on assisting and accompanying the SyroMalabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches. These churches trace their heritage to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle. As mission-minded churches, its members reach out all over the world, dynamically serving as proclaimers and evangelizers. But we have concentrated much of our support for these churches in the south — specifically in the state of Kerala. Thanks be to God, the churches in Kerala have flourished; many young men are drawn to the priesthood, and young women, though perhaps in slightly fewer numbers, are becoming sisters. Little



by little, the church in southern India is becoming more and more self-sufficient.

share with the poor the love that God has for all, giving them a sense of hope and belonging.

But now the great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.

Cultural and political sensitivities prohibit me from sharing with you where some of these visits have taken place, but I can tell you what I experienced. I met humble, tribal people. Many were not of any caste (thus, they are literally outcasts) and all of them were hungry to learn about Jesus. They felt very comfortable and loved by the priests, sisters and lay leaders who were sharing their faith with the poor.

On a series of visits with my hosts — a team of humble priests, religious sisters and lay leaders, including catechists — I have experienced firsthand this new approach to missionary life in India. It is happening not by building schools, erecting clinics or developing social service projects, but simply by humbly living with the poor. This means no formal structures — no buildings per se — but living, breathing witnesses of Christ who

I may have been the first North American to have ever visited them — and these beautiful, spiritually thirsty souls made me feel most welcome by making the sign of the cross and praying with me (in their local language) the Lord’s Prayer. This is where I really choked up; at that moment I felt that God truly was

the father of us all. They reminded me of this tenet of my faith. This was a group that included everyone, from suckling babes and their young mothers, to youngsters of every age and some elderly people as well. They had no church building, but were just content to sit on the ground with a simple tarp hanging overhead. This mission team has lovingly invited these souls to learn more about Jesus and his church. One of the key components in this outreach is the role of the catechist, the team leader. These are the frontline teachers, spiritual guides who live in the villages with the poor and welcome them each day into their huts to discover more fully how they are not alone, how Jesus is always with them and how he wants to share his love with them more fully through the sacraments. But the priests and sisters also live with them and make regular pastoral visits to many outlying villages and hamlets where the physical conditions are undeveloped. I was also privileged to visit the state of Punjab in the northwest of India, bordering on Pakistan. Accompanying the Syro-Malabar bishop of Faridabad, Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, whose territory covers about one-fourth of India, we traveled to the remote town of Panniwala for a pastoral visit with 300 catechumens preparing for baptism. Due to many unforeseen challenges — namely, horrible road conditions, the lack of maps and very few people able to direct us — we arrived hours late. Arriving almost in darkness, we were shocked to be greeted by over 200 excited drummers, Punjabi dancers and faith-filled poor who escorted us to a public area where we were welcomed as honored guests.

In my words to them (ably translated by one of the priests), I simply shared a common message to the poor, that “we are all part of a larger family — God’s family — and he loves each and every one of us. No one is alone, because Jesus always walks with us.” But their fervor in learning about the faith and their pride in expressing it, along with their beautiful welcome to me, made this point much more eloquently. As I have found so often in my priesthood: The learner becomes the teacher, the disciple becomes the master. There are still many places on earth where the Good News of Jesus has not yet been heard. And sadly, there are places where it has been lost or nearly extinguished. The great north of India is ripe for the missionary call of these two dynamic churches. And CNEWA is committed to walk with them on this important journey of faith. Would you like to join CNEWA in helping the Syro-Malabar and SyroMalankara churches extend their hearts and hands to the unreached of India? Would you like to assist these missionaries in bringing hope to the poor by coming to learn about and appreciate the Good News?

Dancers in typical Punjabi dress greet Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Msgr. John E. Kozar as part of their pastoral visit.

Your financial gifts allow us to fortify our expressions of solidarity with these churches and with the poor in these unreached areas. I have a special favor to ask of you. As you make the sign of the cross and say the Our Father, think of the smiling and hope-filled faces of these humble souls as they grow in their faith, learning they are enveloped in the arms of God. Then, thank God for the gift of faith, the witness of the missionaries, and for the poor themselves! May God bless you. Msgr. John E. Kozar





A Pictorial Journey

THIS PAGE: Indian villagers join together in a multi-linguistic Lord’s Prayer. TOP RIGHT: Msgr. Kozar speaks to the faith community in a remote village in central India. BOTTOM RIGHT: Children from a village in India gather at an assembly for Msgr. Kozar’s pastoral visit.





A Pictorial Journey

RIGHT: A sister makes a pastoral visit to a family in central India. LOWER: Members of the community in a remote village in India invite Msgr. Kozar into their home. OPPOSITE: CNEWA President Msgr. Kozar stands with seminarians in India during his pastoral visit.





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Profile for ONE Magazine

ONE Magazine Winter 2014  

The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

ONE Magazine Winter 2014  

The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)

Profile for cnewa