9 September 2019
A collection of pants and shirts on the floor at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington illustrates the lives of migrants lost at sea. "The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement" exhibit focuses on people forced to leave their homelands.
(photo: CNS/Lee Stalsworth courtesy The Phillips Collection)
A pair of well-worn shoes left in the desert at the U.S.-Mexico border is the last thing you’d expect to find in one of the most prized rooms of the Washington museum known as The Phillips Collection, a premier venue for modern American art as well as classic European expressionists such as Renoir and Matisse.
But there, in a transparent case, in a space that focuses the viewer on the work of Mark Rothko, celebrated as a 20th century American artist but one who was born in what later became Latvia, the small battered shoes are on display.
They’re next to an item that looks as if it belonged to a child -- a piece of cloth embroidered with the image of a lion. A description explains the items were found in 2018 near the Arizona-Mexico border by members of the Undocumented Migration Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The items, likely left behind by a migrant heading north, made up part of the 100 multimedia pieces in the museum’s “The Warmth of Other Suns: Global Stories of Displacement” exhibit focused on those forced to leave their homelands. It is on display until 22 September.
“A lot of the works can be very heavy,” explained a museum guide — and she wasn’t talking about the physical weight of the objects.
Much like the person to whom the embroidered item likely belonged, Rothko left his homeland as a child, barely 10 when he left the Russian Empire and headed with his mother to a new life in the United States, where they arrived in late 1913.
They resettled with other family members who had arrived earlier in Portland, Oregon.
A large part of the exhibit focuses on the emotional toll as well as the dangers of such immigration journeys, and one experienced in modern times by a record 70.8 million around the world, fleeing war, persecution and conflict, according to 2018 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
One of the rooms in the exhibit, with a large-scale photograph of the sea covering a wall, and jeans and shirts strewn on the floor, reminds museum-goers of the stream of recent refugee drownings. The clothing installation, by artist Kader Attia, is titled “La Mer Morte” (The Dead Sea) and is reminiscent of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Pope Francis in 2013 called attention to tragedies faced by those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa to Europe.
Audio of waves and video of the sea nearby make it hard to escape the reality of the risks that refugees have confronted: Die drowning while trying to reach safety or die in a different way at home.
The exhibit takes up three floors of the Phillips, which is filled with portraits of refugees who arrived from Europe to Ellis Island in the early 1900s, photos of modern-day refugees from places such as Eritrea, Iraq and Syria who set up a refugee camp torn down in Calais, France, in 2016, audio in various languages in which immigrants speak of their experiences as well as the indignities they or their children suffer in their adoptive countries.
A black and white photograph of a building with a large sign that says “I am an American” showed what one American family of Japanese descent had to do the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. Even after its prompt display of loyalty to the U.S., the family was sent to what was called a War Relocation Authority center, or an internment camp where some Japanese Americans were forced to live during World War II.
Though some of the items have a documentary quality, other art offers political commentary, such as the work of Siah Armajani, a Minnesotan artist, in a piece labeled with the ironic title “Seven Rooms of Hospitality.” It features plastic 3-D printed models of “uncertain spaces occupied by refugees, deportees, and exiles.” They include a cage, a shack and a model of a truck with the name of a company called Hyza on the side and the words describing its contents: “60 men, eight women, and three children, all dead.”
It was a reference to a 2015 incident in which 71 refugees and migrants from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan suffocated in an airtight, refrigerated truck found abandoned on the side of an Austrian highway as they traveled from Hungary to Munich.
There’s also a chilling video made by Erkan Ozgen called “Wonderland” that focuses on a 13-year-old child who can’t speak, but miming with his hands and through grunts, describes an attack he witnessed and escaped from in his native Syria, motioning what seems to be a shooting and someone’s hands being tied. After watching, it’s hard not to hear his trauma through the grunts that travel through the museum floor.
Where a news item will document singular moments of difficulty, struggle, trauma and sometimes death that a displaced person may face, the exhibit’s photos, the audio playing in the background of migrants’ voices, videos of the empty and uninviting landscapes some of them have traveled through bring together the totality of the experience. Though it seems as if hope is absent and the “warmth” promised in the exhibit’s title is all but missing, perhaps it can be found in the space known as the “Rothko room,” where the migrant’s shoes are temporarily residing.
The Rothko room, a place where silence is encouraged, was envisioned as a place to meditate. Duncan Phillips, the museum’s founder, is said to have referred to it as a “chapel” and a painting by the immigrant artist, now widely recognized as a full-fledged American, hangs on each wall.
The paintings are of large and small blocks of bright and sometimes dark colors. According to the museum’s online literature, Phillips said of Rothko’s paintings that “what we recall are not memories but old emotions disturbed or resolved -- some sense of well-being suddenly shadowed by a cloud -- yellow ochres strangely suffused with a drift of gray prevailing over an ambience of rose or the fire diminishing into a glow of embers, or the light when the night descends.”
It’s hard to know how the journey of a displaced person will end, with success or with struggle, with the brightness of a new life like the one Rothko’s family was able to build or trudging through an unwelcoming place. The journey nevertheless began inside the shoes of a child that, like Rothko, was taken by his parents to start a new life in a new land.
9 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Immigration
Alexandria, Egypt is surrounded on three sides by water is now threatened by rising sea levels. (photo: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Rising sea levels threaten Egypt’s Alexandria (Voice of America) Alexander the Great established the city more than 2,000 years ago. In that time, it has survived invasions, fires and earthquakes. But, Alexandria now faces severe flooding from rising waters blamed on climate change. Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city, with more than 5 million people. It is also an important port and home to about 40 percent of Egypt’s industrial activity. The city is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea and sits next to a lake…
Gandhi seeks reconstruction payments for flood-ravaged Kerala (The Hindu) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has written to Union Minister Arjun Munda and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, urging them for early payment of compensation to tribals and reconstruction measures in flood-hit areas in the State…
Report: ’air strikes’ hit near Iraq border (BBC) Warplanes have struck positions of Iran-backed militias near Syria’s border with Iraq, activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said at least 18 Iranian and pro-Iranian fighters were killed. It was not clear who carried out the overnight strikes in and around the town of Albu Kamal…
Catholic priest, catechist arrested in India (UCANews.com) A Catholic priest and a catechist were arrested and jailed on Sept. 7 in India’s Jharkhand state after they were accused of grabbing tribal people’s land and engaging in forced religious conversions. The Rev. V.J. Binoy and catechist Munna Hansda, who work in the Rajadah mission area in Godda district under Bhagalpur Diocese, were arrested after a complaint by a villager. Two villagers — village head Rameshwar Thakur and Charlis Hansda — were accused of the same charges but reportedly absconded. The four have been accused of violating the eastern state’s stringent anti-conversion law, which prohibits religious conversion through allurement or force and without informing government authorities…
6 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Egypt
Two employees of Caritas Armenia care for 80-year-old Marjik Harutyunyan. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Every year on 5 September the world observes the UN International Day of Charity. On 17 December 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution establishing an International Day of Charity to encourage people to volunteer services and engage in acts of philanthropy throughout the world. The UN chose 5 September as the date for the observance because it is also the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), who died on 5 September 1997. That date now serves as her feast day on the Catholic calendar.
Charity is at the very core of the work of CNEWA. In the many countries where we work, we strive to help people who have been driven from their homes, are suffering from illnesses and crushing poverty. The list can be extended almost infinitely. The Welfare in Catholic Near East Welfare Association is almost identical to Charity in the International Day of Charity.
This day, then, serves as a good opportunity to reflect on what we mean when we talk about ”charity.”
Words are interesting things. They move through space and time. The ancient words of sacred texts of the Bible are alive and well in the languages of modern people. The inspired texts, originally in Hebrew, some Aramaic and Greek have been translated into literally thousands of languages, starting with Latin and Syriac in the earliest centuries of Christianity. As words move from place to place and century to century, they are not static. Words change. Sometimes they change radically and take on new meanings that may be almost the opposite of the original meaning. For example, in the time of Shakespeare the word ” ice” had the connotation of quibbling, silly and picky. It could also mean nice in the modern sense — but generally it was not a compliment. More often words take on or shed layers of meaning—the connotation is almost constantly evolving. In American English of the mid-20th century, for example, a turkey was a bird and that’s all it was. By the turn of the century a turkey — in addition to being a bird — became a naïve or unintelligent person.
Most of these changes, while interesting, are not earth-shaking. However, sometimes words from sacred texts change in ways that can be confusing. ”Love” is one of those words.
In Hebrew, the common word for love is built on the root 'h b. It — and its opposite, hate — mean pretty much what ”love” and ” hate” mean in modern English. However, they are also used to show a legal relation in a covenant. A vassal king “loves” his overlord and “hates” the enemies of his overlord. There is no sense of emotion or feeling. To “love” the overlord means to be faithful to the legal treaty — the covenant — between the two.
The Greek of the New Testament has three words for love, each with a slightly different connotation.
The first is erao. It has the connotation of passionate, physical love. Our English word ”erotic” is derived from Greek erao. To the best of my knowledge, this word does not appear in any form in the New Testament.
The two other words are phileo, which has the connotation of loving and befriending, and agapao, with its noun agape which is the love we find mostly in the New Testament. The word phileo in all its forms appears some 27 times, including three times with the connotation of “to kiss” (Matt 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47)— all in relation to Judas Iscariot.
Agapao is clearly the preferred word in the New Testament, appearing some 256 times. When Paul speaks of “faith, hope and love” (1 Cor 13:13), he uses agape.
While some scholars have seen deep differences between the two words — with agapao being the more important of the two — that does not seem to be the case. While agapao is clearly the preferred word, phileo is nonetheless used to describe the love of the Father for the Son (John 5:20). More interestingly in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter in John 21:15-18 Jesus asks Peter twice “do you love me” (agapas me) and twice Peter replies, “You know I love you” (philo se). The third time Jesus asks “Do you love me” (phileis me), he uses Peter’s word for love. It is most unlikely John would have Jesus use a lesser word for love, merely because Peter used it.
Some problems do occur, however, in later translations. Latin, for example, does not have the same broad choice of words for “love” as Greek. In the Latin Vulgate, there is a tendency to translate agape as caritas. When the verb “to love” is translated into Latin, the preferred word is diligo.
Words change as they travel. The Latin caritas, used to translate the Greek words for love, comes into English as ”charity.” However, over the centuries charity has taken on the additional and perhaps now primary meaning of “acts of charity,” which the New Testament often refers to as “acts of mercy” (from the Greek eleeo, “to be compassionate”).
As a result, as least in English, charity becomes increasingly unmoored from love. It becomes at least theoretically (to say nothing of practically) possible to be charitable without being loving.
In point of fact, nothing could be further from the ideal preached by Jesus. Acts of charity are acts and signs of love. We must never allow “charity” to become a substitute for ”love.”
Which brings us back to our mission at CNEWA.
At CNEWA, so much of what we do may be considered a work of charity.
But that word reminds us: it is all, really, a work of love.
6 September 2019
Countless children are returning to school this month, so we are remembering some of those students we serve around the world. In this image, a child reads Braille at the Shashemene School for the Blind. Learn more about how CNEWA helps give Special Attention for Special Needs in the November 2006 edition of ONE. (photo: Nile Sprague)
6 September 2019
Faithful gather to celebrate the parish feast of Holy Savior Church in Addis Ababa. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
Ethiopia: Ethnic strife threatens church unity (DW) It started out as a legitimate grievance, Reverend Daniel Seifa Michael acknowledges: “There are issues that they have raised which are really of concern. Like the church has to be strong in the evangelical services in the Oromo communities. And the church has to provide Oromo language services,” the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC’s) foreign affairs department told DW. The linguistic problem has been turned into a political one, according to expert Mohammed Girma…
U.N.: More than a thousand civilians killed in Syria over four months (Al Jazeera) U.N. human rights chief says her office has tallied more than 1,000 civilian deaths in northern Syria over the last four months…
Archbishop criticizes India’s Freedom of Religion Act (Vatican News) The government of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, led by the pro-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed a bill last week to check what it describes “forcible religious conversions”. Cutting across party affiliations, the Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 was unanimously passed in the state assembly on 30 August. Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai Diocese spoke to Vatican News lamenting the bill saying conversion is a free and conscientious act which should be restricted but respected…
Palestinian refugees seek asylum in Canada (AP) Waving Palestinian and Canadian flags, hundreds of Palestinian refugees gathered outside the Canadian Embassy in Beirut on Thursday requesting asylum in the North American country. Many among the group lamented the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Lebanon, which is going through a severe economic crisis, and said they wanted a more dignified life…
Families press for memorial at site of Ethiopian plane crash (Reuters) Many of the relatives are now pressing for the farmland where the plane crashed to be turned into a permanent memorial. ”Out of respect to the dead, the crash site should be treated as a graveyard,” said Adrian Toole, a Briton whose daughter Joanna died in the crash, the second involving a Boeing 737-MAX in the space of five months…
5 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Ethiopia
Daughter of Charity Sister Naglaa stands with students in St. Vincent de Paul School.
(photo: Hanaa Habib)
In the current edition of ONE, Magdy Samaan described some of the remarkable work being done Reclaiming Lives in Cairo’s poorest quarter. Here, he offers some additional impressions:
To have your child admitted in a private foreign language school in Egypt, you have to do more than just pay the fees. Most of these schools are expensive, but they also set requirements for admission based on the parents’ social level and education.
They conduct an interview with the parents to make sure that they come from certain social classes. This deprives students from poor backgrounds from receiving good education. They are left with only one choice: to enroll in a government school, where education has deteriorated greatly in the past few decades.
This has created opportunities for private schools in Egypt. It has become like a market, where service varies greatly in the level of education and expenses.
But education costs Egyptian families an increasing amount of their shrinking income. Even those who go to government schools often need private tutoring, because the quality of education is not the best. Students coming from poor families, who can’t join a private school or afford private courses, have a hard time succeeding.
In the past, there was kind of equality in education. Public school used to be the main place for most Egyptians. Sons from poor families had the chance for social mobility through education. But nowadays it has become harder and harder for them to keep up with those who have more money and can afford better schools.
But then is the Saint Vincent de Paul School in Cairo. Children whose parents are poor — such as garbage collectors — are welcomed in the school. They even get help in paying the fees. Some get a discount; others have the fees waived. It can make a tremendous difference.
But it isn’t easy. The school seeks donations to support the students who can’t afford the fees. Sadly, not many people are willing to help.
This remains a great challenge in Egypt. Seeing the good that Saint Vincent de Paul School accomplishes should inspire more people to support this kind of schooling. As one of the sisters told me, “If we all shut the door in front of them, where shall they go?”
Read more about the lives of Egyptians trying to get a good education in the July 2019 edition of ONE. And for an intimate glimpse of life in Egypt, check out the video below.
5 September 2019
A group of migrants tour historic Kerak, Jordan, on their way to the Ader Learning Center.
We received the following email from Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director in Amman, describing some of CNEWA’s outreach to Filipino migrants who have settled in Jordan:
Our staff took part recently in a pilgrimage to Kerak and the Ader Learning Center, under the care of the Rev. Boulos Baqa’in. Three library staff accompanied some 40 migrants, who visited Kerak Castle with Father Boulos and a tour guide, who explained the biblical, historical, and archeological importance of the place to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
At noon, they attended Divine Liturgy at a Greek Catholic Church. After that, they interacted with children and parents at the Ader Learning Center, which CNEWA supports; they distributed coloring books and games to the children, along with cultural magazines for adults, some books on religion and two balls for playing football.
It was a fulfilling encounter for everyone!
5 September 2019
Tags: Jordan Migrants
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, is seen in this undated photo. (photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
Archbishop pushing for a papal visit to Ukraine (Crux) Archbishop Borys Gudziak, one of nearly 50 Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops in Rome this week, says he and his fellow prelates are pushing harder than ever for a papal visit to Ukraine — a trip that he said is crucial to ending conflict in the country, but which is being held up by fear of potential reprisal from Russia…
A chapter of Jewish history in India comes to a close (UCANews.com) In the city locality of Mattanchery, a grief-stricken crowd had gathered in front of Sarah Cohen’s tiny house-cum embroidery shop which had served as a marker of by-gone time in so-called Jew Town. Cohen was hospitalized last week after she fell from her bed and later died back in her home on 30 August. She was 96 years of age. She was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Mattanchery, close to the synagogue on 1 September. She was the oldest of three Jews left in the once popular Jewish trade center on the coast of the Arabian sea in Kerala…
New archeological findings at Goliath’s birthplace (The Jerusalem Post) A new layer of the ancient Philistine city of Gath has been uncovered in an archeological excavation led by Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University — which has the potential to re-contextualize much of biblical history…
Syrian musicians defy limitations (Arab News) Despite the dominance of war and gloom in headlines about Syria these days, and despite the fact that the few positive stories reported via mass and social media are by and large about individual instances of success, the large majority of the Syrian people continue to soldier on. Whether in search of a sense of normalcy in daily life or in working hard to achieve a semblance of stability individually or as families, many Syrians are drawing on hard work, but also on creativity, to overcome difficulty. One particularly hopeful and active group of Syrians appears to be the country’s musicians…
4 September 2019
Tags: Syria India Ukraine Jerusalem
The Rev. Khalil Jaar, Amy Peake, left, and Um Rita discuss the washable diapers the Iraqi Christian community is creating for refugees. (photo: CNS/Dale Galvak)
A petite, dark-haired woman busily measures and cuts large pieces of pastel pink and blue fleecy material as another sews.
“We left Iraq with our most precious possessions. ISIS stole everything from us, but thank God, they did take not our daughters,” the woman, known as Um Rita by her colleagues, told Catholic News Service, her eyes welling with tears.
Many Iraqi Christians, who fled Islamic State militants in August 2014, are still displaced, both inside Iraq and as refugees in neighboring lands, such as Jordan.
But the Rev. Khalil Jaar and British humanitarian Amy Peake have teamed up on an initiative that provides a livelihood to some of his Iraqi refugee parishioners, who have run short of funds, in a crowded section of Amman, the Jordanian capital.
“We have around 800 Iraqi refugee families living in my parish in Marka. They came after ISIS took Mosul and arrived here with almost nothing,” explained Father Jaar, who has devoted his ministry to aiding Iraqi and Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan from neighboring conflicts for more than a decade.
“Unlike the Syrian refugees, the Iraqis are not allowed to work. They don’t receive any help from nongovernmental organizations,” he told CNS. “So, you can imagine the situation of these families. I am looking to find a way for them to live in human dignity, to work and to have some money,” said Father Jaar, who grew up as a Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem, West Bank.
The Jordanian government grants work permits to some Syrian refugees, but others, such as Iraqis and Yemenis, are not officially allowed to work. But Father Jaar explained that Iraqis working in the church and on the compound may do so, because they are Christian and it’s a Catholic institution which has been helping them.
“When Amy visited our center, I felt her heart was burdened. She told me, ‘Father, I have a problem.’ ‘I have the solution,’ I told her.” And he chuckled, recounting their first meeting at his parish compound, Our Lady Mother of the Church.
Peake told CNS that at Zaatari, Jordan’s biggest refugee camp for Syrians, she had created a factory to produce high-quality washable diapers -- known in Britain as “nappies” -- and sanitary pads to aid Syrian refugee residents suffering from incontinence, including traumatized children, the elderly and the disabled.
The diapers are free; the idea was to help keep the refugees from spending most of their monthly stipend on disposable diapers.
“Not everybody is going to want to use a washable nappy for obvious reasons. But the 60 percent of people who carried on using them said they saved 25 percent of their monthly income -- which is a huge amount of money,” Peake explained.
Despite the positive results, the United Nations decided not to continue the project.
“Amy proposed to put the sewing machines here and immediately I gave her a big room, because we solve Amy’s problem as well as the problems of many Iraqi refugees in our parish. I see the Lord resolving so many issues,” said Father Jaar. At this time, more than 20 Iraqi Christians are working in the diaper factory.
“Behind each one working in the factory is a family to support with about five children. So, I do thank the Lord for this grace, this blessing he sent to us. I also thank Amy and everyone behind this fantastic relief service,” said the priest. “The families are given the opportunity to work in human dignity, not to beg for the needs of their family.”
Father Jaar said the Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State are well-educated and skilled. They want the possibility to work, rather than receiving handouts.
“I remember during a food coupon distribution, I saw an Iraqi man crying,” he recalled. “I asked him, ‘Has someone hurt you? Why are you are crying? Why are you sad?’ He said, ‘No, Father, I am sad for myself. The work you are doing to help these people, this used to be my work in Mosul. I was a very rich man and I used to help people. Now, I am asking for someone to help me.’“
“You can imagine the frustration of these people,” Father Jaar said, adding that this man now has a responsible role in the factory. “My duty is to support them, to encourage them, to tell them that you are suffering, but you are suffering for a very high, noble reason: to preserve your faith. For you, for me, you are the living saints in my parish. I thank you for living with me.”
Diapers are distributed to churches working with Iraqi refugees in Amman and nearby Fuhais, as well as organizations such as “the House of Peace for the Elderly” (Dar es Salam for the Elderly), located in Amman, founded and run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The Collateral Repair Project, which assists 10,000 refugee families in Jordan, is also involved in locating refugees who need the washable diapers.
4 September 2019
Tags: Refugees Jordan
In this 11 September photo, displaced children are seen at a camp in Idlib, Syria. (photo: CNS /Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Half of Idlib’s children may miss school as battles rage (Al Jazeera) More than half the children living in Syria’s besieged Idlib province will probably be unable to attend school this year as fighting between rebel groups and Syrian forces destroyed hundreds of learning facilities, according to a new report released on Wednesday. Aid group Save the Children found 87 education facilities were destroyed and hundreds damaged during months of fighting. The schools that remain open are under constant threat of air attacks and shelling…
Christians march to protest harassment in India (UCANews.com) Hundreds of young Christians have marched through the street of Ranchi city in eastern India, in protest at the pro-Hindu Jharkhand state government, which they accuse of violating their constitutional rights. The leaders addressed some 500 young people who converged in a public square in the state capital on 31 August and claimed that the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was abusing its authority for harassment and intimidation…
Indian state sharpens laws to check ’forced conversions’ (UCANews.com) India’s Himachal Pradesh state has enacted a new law regulating religious conversions, saying the existing one was not stringent enough to check an increase in forced conversions in the northern state…
The churches trying to save Ethiopia’s trees (BBC) In northern Ethiopia, churches are fighting to protect their sacred forests. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it’s believed that these forests provide protective ‘clothing’ for their sacred spaces. They can also offer the only shade for miles…
Coptic Orthodox communities in Canada welcome Bishop Boulos (Canada Newswire) The Coptic Orthodox communities in Ottawa, will celebrate on Thursday, 5 September the arrival of His Grace Bishop Boulos, the first ever Coptic Orthodox Bishop over Ottawa, Montreal, and Eastern Canada…
Tags: Syria India Ethiopia