Orthodox Churches – UAOC http://uaoc.net/ Fri, 07 Jan 2022 21:48:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8 https://uaoc.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/icon-1-150x150.png Orthodox Churches – UAOC http://uaoc.net/ 32 32 Orthodox Christmas: in Mostar, the reconstruction of an Orthodox church is a sign of unity https://uaoc.net/orthodox-christmas-in-mostar-the-reconstruction-of-an-orthodox-church-is-a-sign-of-unity/ Fri, 07 Jan 2022 21:48:49 +0000 https://uaoc.net/orthodox-christmas-in-mostar-the-reconstruction-of-an-orthodox-church-is-a-sign-of-unity/ The rich skyline of Mostar, with its mosques and Catholic church towers looming over the buildings and leaning against a towering mountain range, again features the towers of an elegant Orthodox church – perched on a hill above on the east side of the city – after its destruction during the brutal war in the […]]]>

The rich skyline of Mostar, with its mosques and Catholic church towers looming over the buildings and leaning against a towering mountain range, again features the towers of an elegant Orthodox church – perched on a hill above on the east side of the city – after its destruction during the brutal war in the city almost 30 years ago.

The 19th-century Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is not yet ready for Mass and will not hold an Orthodox Christmas liturgy on January 7, two weeks after the celebration of Christmas Day in most parts of Europe western and central.

It will be the 29th consecutive Christmas that Orthodox worshipers in the Herzegovina region, the southern half of Bosnia, will not gather in the church that served as the main temple for that part of the country.

“We will be serving the liturgy in all the other churches in and around town, but the ongoing works and the cold make it simply impossible to do it there,” Duško Kojić, the parish or pastor of Mostar. the offices of the eparchy of Zahumlje, about 150 meters downstream from the temple.

Eparchies are provinces or territorial dioceses of the Orthodox Church, ruled by a bishop, each with its seat in a cathedral or “saborni hram” – usually the most representative church or the largest in the largest city in the country. region.

The Zahumlje, Herzegovina and Coastal Eparchy is headquartered in Mostar and oversees the Herzegovina region as well as parts of Dalmatia in neighboring Croatia and a small part of Montenegro.

The temple is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a short walk from the Old Town which leads to the city’s most famous landmark, the Old Bridge with Sharp Arches.

It was the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans at the time of its construction.

During the 1992-1995 war, it was turned into rubble.

It was first bombed in early June 1992, then seven days later it was set on fire and its steeples were knocked down. Eventually, the remaining walls were blown away.

This forced the eparchy to choose another church as the main temple, and it chose the more modest Temple of the Holy Transfiguration in Trebinje – some 135 kilometers south of Mostar – as its replacement.

Centuries of history destroyed during war

Before the conflict, Mostar was home to a dizzying array of cultures. The city sank into ethnic conflict, with civilians persecuted and forced into massive resettlement.

Today the two parts of the city which are divided by the deep blue waters of the Neretva River also mark the dividing line between its two main ethnic groups – the western part of Mostar has become predominantly Bosnian Croat. and the eastern part with a Bosnian majority.

The church was not the only UNESCO-protected monument in the town that was destroyed. Much of the historic center of Mostar, known for its slippery cobblestone streets lined with artisan shops, has been badly damaged.

Bosnian Croat forces also bombed and shot down the Old Bridge, a monument made famous throughout the former Yugoslavia for its frequent appearance in movies and music videos.

The number of Bosnian Serbs has also fallen sharply. What represented nearly a fifth of the city’s population according to the 1991 census was reduced to about 4,400 people or 4.2% in 2013.

Work on the reconstruction of the church did not begin until 18 years after its destruction, in 2010. Unlike many other places of worship usually linked exclusively to one ethnic group, the Orthodox Cathedral of Mostar was a beloved monument whose reconstruction has been delayed by politics, not the opposition. of the local community.

“If you talk to people of Mostar of any faith or ethnicity today, you will see a great sense of sadness for the destruction of the church in all of them,” Kojić said. He explains that this is what makes “Mostar what it is”, unlike the various communities of other conflicts which have maintained their divisions.

“As citizens of Mostar, we do not feel any kind of division between us. And we don’t feel in danger in any way, ”he said. “Politicians create this image of us divided and facing constant problems. They propagate this for their own benefit.

One of the most illustrative stories of its reconstruction, Kojić points out, concerns its bell tower. Three people from Mostar – a Serb, a Croat and a Bosnian – approached the church to donate money for the reconstruction of the bell tower.

“They came to see us and they insisted as truly religious people on remaining anonymous – the highest form of love is to do a good deed without anyone knowing it, without anyone slapping you. the shoulder. “

“So we thought about what to do with their donation and decided that the three clocks on the steeple would now show the time in ancient Roman, Arabic and Slavic numerals. And the church and the city would be less beautiful if we didn’t have these three separate clocks now, ”says Kojić.

The largest Orthodox church in the Balkans

Although the Eparchy of Zahumlje historically has its headquarters elsewhere, it was moved to Mostar as the largest city in the region at the end of the 18th century.

The eparchy needed a large and lavish church as its main temple – something the city had not until now.

The local devotees organized a campaign to raise funds among themselves, and its construction began in 1863. It was built in record time, around 1873.

“It is a witness to the city’s golden age, to the presence and wealth of the local Serbian population,” Kojić explains.

“The size of the temple is decided based on the number of people who come to the service. And the location has been chosen so that you can see it from any entrance to the city, both west, south and north.

Mostar, a trade hub near three countries and close to the Adriatic Sea, wanted to use the church in its ongoing rivalry with the country’s capital, Sarajevo.

“They [citizens] said we have the money and the location, but they also came with a request. And the request was to allow them to make the church bigger than the one in Sarajevo.

Permission was granted and Tsarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire made donations for its construction.

In addition to the city’s worshipers who funded the construction of the church, other citizens of all ethnicities also helped.

“It took them 10 years to build it. Now it took over 11 to bring it back, and we still have no idea when it will be finished.

“Building it so quickly without the mechanization or building materials we have available today shows you the kind of love and unity they showed in building the temple,” he said.

“You had given tasks to the inhabitants of the neighboring villages – one village would be responsible for bringing water from the Neretva, while another would prepare lunch for the workers. “

“I think it’s a good kind of rivalry, which forces you to get better.”

The town’s old church, located just behind the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, was also the site of the country’s first mixed school.

The award-winning Bosnian poet Aleksa Šantić, famous for his poems about Mostar and immortalized as the author of one of the most famous songs of the country’s traditional musical genre, the sevdah, learned to read and write there.

“You devotees of the East”

The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of many Eastern Orthodox churches around the world whose differences in practice and doctrine from those of other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism or Protestantism, are relatively unknown in the West and are less important in popular culture.

After the Great Schism of 1054 split the main faction of Christianity into two separate Churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, due to ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes, the two took completely different paths.

While the Roman Catholic Churches in different countries remained linked and ruled by their headquarters in the Vatican, the various branches of the Orthodox Church were much less connected and centralized.

This meant that the Roman Catholic Church could, over time, change its doctrine and practices more easily and administer the changes in a consistent manner. Orthodox churches have each kept their own rituals and ceremonies largely intact for centuries.

Besides being different from Catholic rites, they can also vary considerably even from one region to another.

According to Kojić, the Serbian Orthodox custom of burning a young oak tree or badnjak on Christmas Eve, believed to represent the way the manger was kept warm when Jesus was born in Nazareth, “would likely raise eyebrows” to a devotee of the Church. Russian Orthodox Church. .

At the same time, some traditions have infiltrated more than one religion.

“Thus, in Herzegovina, Bosnian Catholics also burn badnjak on Christmas Eve,” he explains.

But sometimes even the locals are confused.

The invitation to their annual concert – which often includes both church choirs and well-known rock bands – can be overwhelming at times.

The root of the “confusion” is that the Serbian Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar – promulgated by an edict of Julius Caesar in 45 BC – as opposed to the commonly used Gregorian calendar, introduced by Catholic Pope Gregory XIII. in 1582.

“The difference in the calendars means that although Christmas takes place on January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar, it still refers to the feast of the previous year according to the Julian calendar.”

“So when we send out invitations for the 2021 Christmas concert, and the card says the event is January 7, 2022, people are confused and call us to clarify,” he laughs.

Walking between bags of cement and construction tools, he is cheerfully greeted by a group of construction workers at work in freezing temperatures.

The facade was completed earlier this year, Kojić points out, but interior work will take some time, especially since the frescoes that will cover the walls and represent Orthodox Christian saints – a hallmark of all Orthodox churches – take a lot. time to do correctly.

“We suggested that using modern materials would make the job both faster and cheaper, but UNESCO refused,” he says as the workers deftly climb the scaffolding covering the inside of the building. church.

“So now we have to wait,” and that suits him, Kojić explains.

Most important for Kojić and the other parish priests who serve the cathedral, it is the citizens of Mostar who will come to visit it once it is completed.

“The church has no value other than a pretty building. The people who come there make it a church.

And it is open to all its citizens, regardless of their faith, he stressed.

“We look forward to welcoming the Bosnians and Croats to Mostar as well – Christmas will never be Christmas without them,” he concluded.

Every weekday, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes beyond the headlines. Download the Euronews app to receive a daily alert for this and other last minute notifications. It is available on Apple and Android devices.


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Orthodox Christians Celebrate End of Christmas Season | Religion https://uaoc.net/orthodox-christians-celebrate-end-of-christmas-season-religion/ Thu, 06 Jan 2022 10:00:00 +0000 https://uaoc.net/orthodox-christians-celebrate-end-of-christmas-season-religion/ Country united states of americaUS Virgin IslandsMinor Outlying Islands of the United StatesCanadaMexico, United Mexican StatesBahamas, Commonwealth ofCuba, Republic ofDominican RepublicHaiti, Republic ofJamaicaAfghanistanAlbania, People’s Socialist Republic ofAlgeria, People’s Democratic Republic ofAmerican SamoaAndorra, Principality ofAngola, Republic ofAnguillaAntarctica (the territory south of 60 degrees S)Antigua and BarbudaArgentina, Argentine RepublicArmeniaArubaAustralia, Commonwealth ofAustria, Republic ofAzerbaijan, Republic ofBahrain, Kingdom ofBangladesh, […]]]>


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Russian-American tensions: Ukrainian Zelenskyy wants an end to the fighting in the East in 2022 https://uaoc.net/russian-american-tensions-ukrainian-zelenskyy-wants-an-end-to-the-fighting-in-the-east-in-2022/ Sun, 02 Jan 2022 08:17:02 +0000 https://uaoc.net/russian-american-tensions-ukrainian-zelenskyy-wants-an-end-to-the-fighting-in-the-east-in-2022/ Al Jazeera English posted this video clip, titled “Russian-American Tensions: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Wants to End Fighting in the East in 2022” – below is their description. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his New Year’s message that he wants to see an end to the conflict in the east of the country. Large parts of […]]]>

Al Jazeera English posted this video clip, titled “Russian-American Tensions: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Wants to End Fighting in the East in 2022” – below is their description.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his New Year’s message that he wants to see an end to the conflict in the east of the country.

Large parts of the region were occupied by Russian-backed separatists almost eight years ago.

Ukrainian officials said Russia had moved 100,000 people to their shared border, with Moscow and Washington threatening each other over military build-up.

Nadim Baba’s report from Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera English YouTube Channel

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In this story: Moscow

Moscow, on the Moskva River in western Russia, is the country’s cosmopolitan capital. In its historic heart is the Kremlin, a complex that houses the treasures of the President and the Tsar in the Armory. Outside its walls is Red Square, the symbolic center of Russia. It is home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State Historical Museum’s Complete Collection, and St. Basil’s Cathedral, known for its colorful onion-shaped domes.

2 recent articles: Moscow

  • World welcomes 2022 with muted celebrations due to Covid-19
  • Moscow celebrates the new year

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    immobility in the Poconos | City newspaper https://uaoc.net/immobility-in-the-poconos-city-newspaper/ Fri, 31 Dec 2021 16:20:47 +0000 https://uaoc.net/immobility-in-the-poconos-city-newspaper/ Unless they’re traveling by car, many visitors to Saint Tikhon’s Zadonsk Monastery, located about 140 miles outside of Philadelphia, in southern Canaan, Pa., Take a bus to Scranton. There, they meet a monk, who leads them through fields and hills to the monastery. The old country houses along the road still display large, sturdy Trump-Pence […]]]>

    Unless they’re traveling by car, many visitors to Saint Tikhon’s Zadonsk Monastery, located about 140 miles outside of Philadelphia, in southern Canaan, Pa., Take a bus to Scranton. There, they meet a monk, who leads them through fields and hills to the monastery. The old country houses along the road still display large, sturdy Trump-Pence signs on their lawns.

    I first visited St. Tikhon in 2014, shortly after becoming an Orthodox Christian. As a former Roman Catholic, I had visited Benedictine monasteries in upstate New York and Florida, so I knew a bit about monastic life before going there. Typically, I try to visit St. Tikhon about once a year, although the monastery has been closed to visitors for most of 2020 due to the pandemic.

    However, committing to staying only a few days at the monastery was never an easy decision for me. It is because detaching yourself from city life for a life of prayer, even temporarily, is not easily accomplished. At the monastery, there is no television, no quick trips to town to eat Chinese, and no festivities with friends after dinner. The monastic emphasis is on salvation and the eternal life of the soul. Coming to St. Tikhon’s after a long stay in the city is as much of a shock to the system as it is to return to “the world” after spending several days there.

    The first thing that one notices about St. Tikhon is its stillness. The monastery seems out of reach even from air traffic, and if you listen long enough you might catch the shrill chwirk of a hawk or the hissing notes of an eagle flying above. Covering nearly 400 acres of woods and fields, the monastery includes two lakes, one hand-dug by monks and filled with fish that often end up as a meal on the dinner table.

    The monastery was founded in 1905 by Patriarch Saint Tikhon under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church and later became part of the American Orthodox Church. It is currently home to 14 monks from all over the country. Opened in 1937, the Saint Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary prepares married and unmarried men for the priesthood. Some seminarians work and live in the monastery for a while.

    Schema Archimandrite Father Sergius Bowyer, abbot of the monastery, is a former Roman Catholic who converted to Orthodoxy and became a priest. He was converted, he says, because he felt that orthodoxy offered him a life “more fully in Christ.”

    “My family is still very Catholic,” Father Serge told me. “At the end of the day, the important thing is to keep Christ at the center of our lives.”

    Saint Tikhon is home to two supposedly miraculous icons: “She who hears quickly”, a copy of an icon from the Dochiariou monastery on Mount Athos, and an image of Saint Anne, painted in the Holy Land and which is said to have started to diffuse myrrh in 2004. The monastery sells a variety of items including books, liturgical CDs, homemade candles, bee products and its “Burning Bush” coffee brand.

    Receiving guests has always been a hallmark of monastery hospitality. Visitors are encouraged to follow the monk’s routine, which includes daily participation in the Divine Liturgy at 6 a.m. and in Vespers and Evening Matins services. Men who contemplate monasticism stay in St. Tikhon for an extended period of time and are given a job to support the functioning of the monastery.

    Meals at St. Tikhon are mostly silent business. Monks and visitors listen to the accounts of the lives of the saints, and the writings of the Fathers of the Church are read aloud until the abbot rings a bell, prompting them all to stand up for a short prayer. With the abbot’s permission, they then strike up a conversation and resume their meal.

    The monks of St. Tikhon wear long ponytails and patriarchal beards, and many wear dramatic kamilavka hats covered with black veils during church services. While the habits of Catholic monks vary according to their order, Orthodox monks wear standard attire: a black cassock and belt, and a raised black beanie called a skufia. They don’t shave or cut their hair, often in a ponytail or bun. Again, unlike Catholic monks, who often wear secular clothing for travel outside the monastery, Orthodox monks constantly wear their clothing. Some monks in St. Tikhon have told me that they were mistaken for Muslims while doing business in Scranton. “Are you ISIS? We asked them.

    Many monks in St. Tikhon converted to Orthodox Christianity from Evangelical Protestantism. On my last visit, I met someone who had worked as a high-level linguist in the military and had left a lucrative career in linguistics to enter St. Tikhon Seminary. Nathan hopes to be ordained a priest next year and hopes to be posted to a parish in Alaska, where he grew up.

    “I spent many years searching,” another monk told me. “I was an atheist, I shopped. I went to Catholic and Anglican churches. I walked into that real fancy high Anglican church one time, prayed, but when the time for fellowship came, they started giving out little cups of grape juice. I can’t do this, I thought. Orthodoxy gives me the spiritual fullness that I was looking for.

    Another monk said he spent a considerable amount of time traveling the world and running restaurants in the West before entering a monastery in his mid-forties.

    “It’s much better to become a monastic when you’re in your twenties,” he says. “The problem of obedience is especially difficult when you are considerably older than the Abbott. Becoming a monk in your mid-twenties is better, when you’ve had a few life experiences but are still malleable, ”he said.

    In its 107-year history, St. Tikhon’s has courted its fair share of intrigue. Decades ago, a famous Serbian metropolitan was poisoned to death during an overnight visit. A man seen entering and exiting the Cleric’s Room is the alleged murderer, and the Metropolitan’s clothing can be seen in the St. Tikhon Museum. In the 1960s, a monk suffered a heart attack while fishing in the hand-dug lake and drowned.

    St. Tikhon’s musical and choral programs, conducted by Benedict Sheehan, are attracting international attention. Sheehan previously studied at St. Tikhon Seminary, but decided he was not fit for the priesthood and has since established a successful musical career. His work as a conductor on Kastalsky’s Naxos 2020 release Requiem for the fallen brothers earned it a 2021 Grammy nomination. St. Tikhon’s flourished as a musical training ground for many Orthodox parishes on the east coast, and part of the Monastery Museum, which contains priceless icons that once belonged to the Tsar Nicholas II, is used as a performance space.

    Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, St. Tikhon’s influence is wider than it appears.


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    Gunmen storm Russian Christian conference https://uaoc.net/gunmen-storm-russian-christian-conference/ Thu, 30 Dec 2021 05:02:13 +0000 https://uaoc.net/gunmen-storm-russian-christian-conference/ Russia (MNN) – Armed men stormed a Christian conference near Moscow, Russia. They threw men, women and children to the ground and kicked several pastors. Participants believed terrorists were attacking them. In reality, they were officers of the Russian Federal Security Service. Floyd Brobbel with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada said, “The leaders of […]]]>

    Russia (MNN) – Armed men stormed a Christian conference near Moscow, Russia. They threw men, women and children to the ground and kicked several pastors. Participants believed terrorists were attacking them.

    In reality, they were officers of the Russian Federal Security Service. Floyd Brobbel with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada said, “The leaders of this conference said they had organized everything legally. And everything was ready to go. There shouldn’t have been a problem or a backlash like the ones these security forces were facing. But it seems to me that there is some confusion. Earlier in the year, further changes were made to religious legislation. And this legislation is a bit difficult to understand.

    These new laws target extremist religious groups or terrorist financing. Brobbel says, “So part of that makes sense, doesn’t it? You don’t want groups funding terrorism. But what does it mean to be involved in an extremist religion? “

    The legislation also targets “unwanted foreigners,” saying they cannot lead a religious group. This designation is also confusing. Brobbel says, “These overseas-trained religious leaders must be recertified and retrained in Russia. Churches must register with governments on an annual basis.

    Government bias

    Because the laws are worded so loosely, security forces often interpret them as they go. Different groups often receive different treatment in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church has very few problems. Evangelical and Protestant Christians face more discrimination. Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Faced More persecution than any other religious group in Russia. Brobbel says, “This kind of bias comes from the government down.”

    Ask God to comfort Russian Christians facing harassment or violence. Brobbel said, “Pray that they will continue to be salt and light, that they continue to speak the truth, that they continue to love their neighbor, and that they continue to boldly proclaim the gospel.

    The header photo shows members of the Russian Federal Security Service on a mission in 2010. (Photo courtesy of the RIA Novosti Archives, Image # 835340 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)


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    Undertakers and rabbis join global fight to promote COVID shootings https://uaoc.net/undertakers-and-rabbis-join-global-fight-to-promote-covid-shootings/ Tue, 28 Dec 2021 07:22:30 +0000 https://uaoc.net/undertakers-and-rabbis-join-global-fight-to-promote-covid-shootings/ In Germany, Lutheran pastors are offering COVID-19 injections inside churches. In Israel’s skeptical ultra-Orthodox community, trusted rabbis are trying to change their minds. And in South Africa, undertakers are taking to the streets to spread the word. The undertaker’s message: “We are burying too many people. A year after the COVID-19 vaccine was made available, […]]]>

    In Germany, Lutheran pastors are offering COVID-19 injections inside churches. In Israel’s skeptical ultra-Orthodox community, trusted rabbis are trying to change their minds. And in South Africa, undertakers are taking to the streets to spread the word.

    The undertaker’s message: “We are burying too many people.

    As the epidemic drags on into a third year, with a worldwide death toll of 5.4 million, vaccine promoters face fear, mistrust, complacency, inconvenience and people who have simply greater concerns than COVID-19.

    One day in December, a convoy of hearses with howling sirens drove to a shopping mall in the sprawling Soweto suburb of Johannesburg.

    “Vaccinate, vaccinate!” Said Vuyo Mabindisi of Vuyo Funeral Services as he handed out brochures on how to avoid COVID-19. “We don’t want to see you come to our offices. “

    Several people responded with curiosity and questions, while others continued to shop.

    With a population of 60 million, South Africa has reported more than 3 million cases of COVID-19, including more than 90,000 deaths. These are the highest figures in Africa. Only around 40% of South Africa’s adult population is fully vaccinated, and this is one of the best levels on the continent. After a choppy start, there is plenty of vaccine.

    Thabo Teffo, a 32-year-old bank worker, was among those seeking to be shot recently at a church in Soweto.

    “It encouraged me to go ahead and get the vaccine for my peace of mind and to protect my family,” he said.

    Rupali Limaye, a behavior specialist who studies global vaccine reluctance at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said community-level efforts can resonate more than impersonal media campaigns.

    German pastor Christoph Herbst believes giving COVID-19 injections in an environment that looks more familiar than medical settings may help. This is why he and several other Lutheran pastors in the Saxony region have contacted an aid group to offer shots inside their churches, despite sometimes violent anti-vaccination protests in recent weeks. Some pastors have been criticized and even threatened.

    “We believe we have a responsibility that is beyond us,” said Herbst, of St. Petri’s Church in the eastern town of Chemnitz. “We’re not doctors and we’re not professionals. But we have the space and we have volunteers who can organize something like that.

    Herbst opened the wrought-iron gates of St. Petri on a recent vaccination day and sighed in relief when he saw the long line of people waiting in the cold.

    Pensioners Hannelore Hilbert and her husband came to get vaccinated in time for the holidays.

    “Last year’s Christmas was really sad. We were all alone, ”said Hilbert, 70, who was eager to celebrate with at least some of his five grandchildren in person – not on Skype, like last year.

    West-made vaccines have been shown to be extremely safe and remarkably effective overall in preventing COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations, and experts say this appears to be true even amid the spread of the highly contagious variant. of omicron. Health officials warn that low vaccination rates give the virus more opportunities to mutate into new variants.

    Saxony has the lowest vaccination rate in Germany and a high number of COVID-19.

    Herbst said many opponents are concerned about the possible side effects, feel they are under too much pressure from the authorities, or do not like the measures taken by the government. Some feel discriminated against as East Germans because all their hopes have not been realized 30 years after the fall of communism.

    “It’s important that there is a space where we listen to each other without immediately falling into condemnation,” Herbst said.

    Chicago community activist Caesar Thompson uses the same approach when he knocks on doors in troubled black neighborhoods hit hard by the virus.

    Thompson, 44, is a “vaccine ambassador” hired by city health officials. He said the idea is not to force or cuddle. Instead, he said, he offers information, answers questions and lets people know he can sign them up to receive snaps in or near their homes.

    Thompson has a salesman’s gift of chatter, and he’s used it in churches, train stations, parks, flea markets – almost anywhere people congregate.

    Thompson said it helped that he was “just a guy on the streets.” “You might even know me if you live in my neighborhood,” he said.

    In the communities it targets, the coronavirus is often not the most pressing concern, Thompson said. For residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods who don’t have jobs or health insurance and struggle to feed their families, “COVID is low on the list for them,” he said. .

    In conservative Wyoming, the vaccine can be a tough sell. Campbell County commissioners have voted against using federal dollars for a vaccine education campaign, fearing it looks like a warrant. The county’s vaccination rate is around 27%.

    Gabby Watson, 23, of Gillette, said she was not planning on getting the vaccine “because I’m really healthy and taking care of myself. I’m just not on top of it. risk of COVID. I just don’t see the rationale for me to get the vaccine.

    She said the US government is pushing COVID-19 vaccines too hard.

    “They push more people away and create more of that thought bubble, ‘What are you trying to do with my body? What are you trying to do with my freedom? Watson said. “And that’s not the right direction to take either. “

    Suspicion of secular authorities is endemic in the Israeli community of ultra-Orthodox Jews. They avoid many of the pitfalls of modern life, follow a strict interpretation of Judaism, and rely on rabbis to guide many life decisions. While some rabbis encouraged vaccination, others took a less aggressive approach.

    The ultra-Orthodox have some of the lowest vaccination rates in Israel and have been hit hard by the pandemic.

    Today, in the face of omicron, Israeli officials “are going on the offensive,” said Avraham Rubinstein, the mayor of Bnei Brak, the country’s largest ultra-Orthodox city. They are deploying mobile vaccination clinics and recruiting leading rabbis from the community.

    Yossi Levy, a 45-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew, recovered from the virus earlier this year, as did his eight children and his wife. He has repeatedly booked and canceled appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.

    “It’s not something urgent. I am not opposed to it. It’s just laziness, ”Levy said.

    While Israel’s vaccination rates for the second dose in the general population hover around 63% and the booster at 45%, in the ultra-Orthodox community the numbers are about half that.

    Ultra-Orthodox – 13% of the Israeli population – tend to live in crowded neighborhoods, with large families in small apartments, where the disease can spread quickly. Synagogues, the centerpiece of social life, bring people together in small spaces. In addition, half of this population is under 16 and only recently became eligible for vaccination.

    Gilad Malach, who heads the ultra-Orthodox agenda for a Jerusalem think tank, said there is a “double fear: fear of the state and fear of science. There is no fundamental trust in these entities “.

    In India, complacency contributes to the low second injection rate among the population of 1.4 billion people: 40% are fully vaccinated and about 19% have received only one injection.

    The country has recorded nearly 35 million cases and more than 450,000 deaths.

    In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, Rohit Kanojia received his first blow in August but did not get the second.

    “I forgot,” the 23-year-old said, adding that people are no longer afraid of COVID-19. People roam without masks and no one maintains social distancing, he said. “Life is almost normal.

    Jeet Bahadur, a 45-year-old cook, received his second injection months later at a Sikh temple in New Delhi. For him, like many others in India trying to make a living in a crippled economy, the virus just wasn’t high on his priority list.

    ———

    Associated Press editors Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg; Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado; Kirsten Grieshaber in Chemnitz, Germany; Anupam Nath in Guwahati, India; Krutika Pathi, Rishi Lekhi and Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi; Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India; and Tia Goldenberg in Bnei Brak, Israel, contributed to this report.


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    Coptic church launches national tree planting initiative https://uaoc.net/coptic-church-launches-national-tree-planting-initiative/ Sun, 26 Dec 2021 15:16:08 +0000 https://uaoc.net/coptic-church-launches-national-tree-planting-initiative/ Coptic church launches national tree planting initiative Photo via Hindu The Coptic Orthodox Church announcement a tree planting competition on Saturday 25 December, as part of an initiative to reduce the impact of climate change in Egypt. The initiative is aimed at all the churches of Egypt in the various governorates and dioceses. The competition […]]]>

    Coptic church launches national tree planting initiative

    Photo via Hindu

    The Coptic Orthodox Church announcement a tree planting competition on Saturday 25 December, as part of an initiative to reduce the impact of climate change in Egypt. The initiative is aimed at all the churches of Egypt in the various governorates and dioceses.

    The competition stipulates several rules, including planting trees inside or around the church grounds, planting at least 1,000 trees per diocese, in addition to taking before and after photos. , as well as the date of planting. The competition also indicated a preference for planting olive, pomegranate or berry trees.

    The winners will be chosen according to the quantity of trees planted, the number of trees still in progress, as well as the general aesthetic aspect of the place.

    Each diocese must submit a report, signed by the authorized bishop and priest of each church, to the papal residence by October 2022.

    When the results are announced in November 2022, prizes will be awarded to the top 12. Prices start from EGP 25,000 to EGP 100,000 ($ 1,591 to US $ 6,300) as the highest price amount.

    According to the church’s official statement, the initiative supports the church’s commitment to tackle climate change in line with government efforts. Despite efforts by the Ministry of the Environment to increase tree plantings across Cairo, as well as in various cities, to reduce air pollution, Egyptian trees remain notoriously on the verge of extinction.

    Last year, the cutting of trees in Maadi and Heliopolis neighborhoods, following a change in infrastructure reforms, caused an uproar on social media. Nonetheless, various institutions, such as schools, universities and community clubs have made efforts to protect the greenery.

    Youth Love Egypt Foundation plants trees as part of two-year initiative to plant 700,000 trees
    Photo via Twitter

    In August 2019, Egypt announced that it would host Africa’s first vertical forest in its new administrative capital. And, in November 2021, the Egypt of Sharm el-Sheikh was selected to host the 27th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) 2022.

    Reforming the Egyptian subsidy system? Deputy minister says no decision has yet been made


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    On Christmas Day, Israeli Christians ‘Thrive’ While Middle Eastern Brethren Are Persecuted https://uaoc.net/on-christmas-day-israeli-christians-thrive-while-middle-eastern-brethren-are-persecuted/ Fri, 24 Dec 2021 18:07:18 +0000 https://uaoc.net/on-christmas-day-israeli-christians-thrive-while-middle-eastern-brethren-are-persecuted/ (December 24, 2021 / JNS) As Christians face persecution and dwindling numbers across the Middle East, Christian Israelis face a different reality with increasing numbers and a high quality of life. The number of Christians in Israel rose 1.4% in 2020 to 182,000 people, 84% of whom say they are satisfied with life in Israel, […]]]>

    As Christians face persecution and dwindling numbers across the Middle East, Christian Israelis face a different reality with increasing numbers and a high quality of life.

    The number of Christians in Israel rose 1.4% in 2020 to 182,000 people, 84% of whom say they are satisfied with life in Israel, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

    Israeli Christians make up about 1.9% of the state’s population, most of whom speak Arabic. Christians make up 7 percent of Israeli Arabs and 76.7 percent of Christians in the country are Arabs.

    The majority of Christians live in Nazareth (21,400), Haifa (16,500), Jerusalem (12,900) and Shefar’am (10,400), according to the SCS.

    Recent storms that have swept through the region, such as the war in Syria, upheaval in Iraq and the spread of Islamist terror, have left the Christian community in Israel unscathed.

    According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Christian communities in Israel can be divided into four main categories: Chalcedonian-Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox like the Greek and Russian denominations); non-Chalcedonian Orthodox (Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syrian); Catholic; and Protestant. They are predominantly Arabic speaking.

    As the holiday season approaches, Christians in Israel are in a festive mood, says Captain (res.) Shadi Khalloul, head of the Aramaic Christian Israeli NGO and spokesperson for the Christian Israel Defense Forces Officers Forum.

    He notes that the Jewish-run Haifa Municipality allowed a large Christmas tree and decorations on the main roads.

    “It proves the beautiful coexistence, security, prosperity and freedom that people enjoy in the democratic Jewish state of Israel,” said Khalloul, who made the news in 2015 when he successfully led a campaign for her child’s state register to change from Arabic to Christian Aramaic at the Interior Ministry.

    “Under the PA and other Arab countries, Christians fear showing their holiday symbols in public and are not protected by the state,” said Khalloul, who is also a former Knesset candidate.

    “For example, many Christian families living in Iraq and Syria are in poverty and cannot afford proper celebrations,” Khalloul continued.

    The Maronite Christian community has shrunk and has become a small minority even in Lebanon, according to Khalloul. And as the economic crisis in the country has deepened, especially over the past year following a massive explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020 and the outbreak of the coronavirus, many have suffered.

    Most of the Maronites live in Lebanon; their number has decreased by about 29 percent of the population in 1932 to about 22 percent In 2008.

    There are Maronite Christian communities in Israel, including former members of the South Lebanon Army militia. The militia was allied with Israel during its invasion of southern Lebanon. About 2,000 of the 10,000 Maronite Christians in Israel are former militia fighters who fled to Israel when its forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.

    According to a journal article by Israeli expert on Syria and Lebanon Eyal Zisser, Maronite ties with the Jewish community in Israel began as early as the 1930s and continued until independence in 1948. The Alliance Against the Muslim Arab World was built on the belief that Israel should serve as a home for the Jews and Lebanon for the Maronites.

    “Israel defends Christians”

    “While Christians in the Middle East are [for the most part] oppressed, in Israel they thrive, ”Khalloul said.

    Israel recently announced that it would allow 500 members of the Christian community from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel and the West Bank to celebrate the holidays.

    The community in Gaza has about 1,000 Christians, and in the West Bank there are still a decreasing number as many have emigrated. According to CIA Facebook, Christians and other small non-Muslim and non-Jewish religions make up 8% of the West Bank population.

    According to a 2018 NBC News report, Bethlehem’s Christian population had fallen from 80 percent in 1950 to about 12 percent.

    However, Christian leaders have sought to blame Israel for the decline in the number of Christians in the disputed territories.

    In an article from last weekend Sunday time, written jointly by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naum, warned of a crisis in Christian survival “in the Holy Land”. Religious leaders blamed the decline in the number of Christians in the disputed territories on the “growth of settler communities” and “travel restrictions caused by the West Bank separation wall”.

    Alastair Kirk of Christians United For Israel UK challenged this portrayal and accused religious leaders of demonizing Israel.

    “While there are serious issues to be resolved in the context of Christians in the Holy Land, Christians living in Israel proper enjoy the same freedoms as other Israelis,” Kirk said. “There are real concerns for Christians living in the West Bank who, like so many others, are caught up in conflict, but rather than looking at the challenges facing Christians in the West Bank in a way that could bring the British public of understanding. they, the archbishops ignore the key facts, effectively demonizing Israel in the process.

    Kirk continued, “All over the world in 2021, Christians were being killed simply because of their faith. Millions of Christians have been uprooted. Many have been imprisoned. Churches have been attacked or forced into hiding. It is somewhat disturbing that the archbishops have found it appropriate to publicly use the occasion of Christmas, in which Bethlehem plays such an important role, to raise controversial issues that some will use to further vilify Israel.

    Bishara Shlayan, an Israeli Arab Christian from Nazareth, told JNS that Israel stands up for Christians and provides security.

    The Palestinian Authority is very weak and cannot provide adequate security for Christians living in the West Bank, he said.

    “The difference between Christians in Israel and in the Arab world is obvious. We are citizens and have equal political rights, while the situation in Arab countries is not good, ”he said.

    Shlayan, who led a party that did not cross the electoral threshold in previous elections, emphasizes that “at least we have the right to run.”

    Its political movement seeks to promote coexistence and local problems rather than fomenting conflicts. He criticized Arab parties in the Knesset, which focus on identifying with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Said Shlayan: “Arab Israeli politicians should represent us and not serve as Palestinian representatives. “


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    Joy and worry as churches prepare for Christmas services amid Omicron wave https://uaoc.net/joy-and-worry-as-churches-prepare-for-christmas-services-amid-omicron-wave/ Wed, 22 Dec 2021 19:13:56 +0000 https://uaoc.net/joy-and-worry-as-churches-prepare-for-christmas-services-amid-omicron-wave/ But as the community prepares to attend church services and family reunions, there is still some apprehension as cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant continue to rise. Bill Papastergiadis (center) with his children Eleni (right) and Lee (left). Source: Provided Mr Papastergiadis said being safe from COVID is of enormous importance to the Greek community […]]]>

    But as the community prepares to attend church services and family reunions, there is still some apprehension as cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant continue to rise.

    Bill Papastergiadis (center) with his children Eleni (right) and Lee (left).

    Source: Provided


    Mr Papastergiadis said being safe from COVID is of enormous importance to the Greek community in Melbourne, which has worked with state and federal governments to establish vaccination centers in church halls.

    “QR coding is just as important. There’s no [capacity] limits [in churches],” he said.

    “Our priests are vaccinated and it is important to ensure that all services and events are maintained with the highest standards of protection.”

    Mr Papastergiadis said the closure of churches during the pandemic had a significant impact on the emotional and mental health of the community.

    “The funeral took place under very limited circumstances,” he said.

    “The pain and sorrow that people felt not only being able to pray in a church, but also being isolated from other church members… had an impact on their belief system. [and] affected their social relationships.

    Read more

    Image to read more article 'Prime Minister calls for' culture of accountability 'amid Christmas COVID outbreak'

    Being able to organize services this Christmas has been a welcome relief for many in the community, Mr. Papastergiadis said.

    “It has brought a feeling of joy and happiness to people’s lives,” he added.

    “An expanded opportunity to reconnect and feel normal again, in these very abnormal times.

    “There is now light at the end of the tunnel for the parishioners and for the community as a whole. “

    Archbishop Makarios with Bill Papastergiadis.

    Source: Provided


    Churches turn to technology

    It will be another virtual Christmas for parishioners at Leichhardt Uniting Church in Sydney, as ministers work to keep their community safe as NSW continues to break daily national records for COVID infections -19.

    Radhika Sukumar-White, a church minister, said many worshipers have been identified as close or occasional contacts.

    She said the church has decided to be “proactive” and made the “difficult but wise decision” to cancel the events in person this Christmas.

    “We have made the decision not to celebrate Christmas in person, given the numbers from COVID and many people who are considered close or casual contacts,” Ms. Sukumar-White said.

    “Our Christmas Eve services will be pre-recorded, then Christmas Day and all of our January services will be broadcast live.”

    Radhika Sukumar-White is a pastor at Leichhardt Uniting Church in Sydney.

    Source: Sydney Leichhardt United Church


    In New South Wales, you are no longer required to be fully vaccinated or to show proof of your vaccination status in places of worship and face masks are no longer required.

    NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday that wearing face masks was “recommended” and that booster injections “were essential” to protect against COVID-19.

    “Vaccination protects and saves lives,” he said, adding: “It is time to put the balance back on personal responsibility.

    Ms Sukumar-White said she was frustrated with the NSW government’s decision to remove mask warrants and QR codes.

    “There are some simple things I think we could do to reduce the spread,” she said.

    “The lack of leadership has been frustrating.

    “Individual responsibility is one thing [but] … we kind of made our decision for our community.

    Read more

    Image to read more 'Extreme Case Scenario' article: Scott Morrison reacts to prediction of 200,000 infections per day '

    Ms Sukumar-White said that she and her husband – both of whom are ministers at the church – will stream the church services live on Facebook.

    “I happen to be able to play music and so I make music and we share the preaching and prayers,” she said.

    “People can comment on the service and I can offer these prayers live to anyone watching… to make it more interactive. “

    She said that while it would be sad to watch the empty benches this Christmas, the well-being of her community comes first.

    “Obviously preaching in an empty chair is difficult and sad, so there is some heartbreak for me and for the community,” she said.

    “But despite all of this, we still believe it is the best and wisest decision for us.”


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    Despite COVID, Christmas in Bethlehem brings joy back to hard times | Middle East | News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW https://uaoc.net/despite-covid-christmas-in-bethlehem-brings-joy-back-to-hard-times-middle-east-news-and-analysis-of-events-in-the-arab-world-dw/ Tue, 21 Dec 2021 08:06:28 +0000 https://uaoc.net/despite-covid-christmas-in-bethlehem-brings-joy-back-to-hard-times-middle-east-news-and-analysis-of-events-in-the-arab-world-dw/ Bagpipes, trumpets and drums are heard from afar. It’s early evening here in Beit Sahour, a small town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Young Palestinian musicians from one of the local scout groups practice their training at the sports field near the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the predominantly Christian town. “This year we […]]]>

    Bagpipes, trumpets and drums are heard from afar. It’s early evening here in Beit Sahour, a small town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Young Palestinian musicians from one of the local scout groups practice their training at the sports field near the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the predominantly Christian town.

    “This year we trained hard. Most of the members trained almost daily for the march and to participate in the Christmas festivities, ”said Dafer Kassis, leader of the church’s Scout troop.

    Led by bagpipers – a musical tradition dating back to the British Mandate at the turn of the 20th century – musicians spin their chopsticks and play Christmas classics like “Jingle Bells” and popular Christmas carols.

    “Last year, like in so many other places around the world, we couldn’t celebrate Christmas properly. That is why we are really looking forward to it now and hope that this time it all goes on December 24th. as expected, “says Kassis.

    Members of the Beit Sahour Shepherds’ Troupe rehearse for the traditional Christmas parade

    Christmas parades are back

    Palestinian Boy Scouts and their groups are an essential part of the colorful Christmas festivities in Bethlehem.

    The parade traditionally begins on the morning of December 24, as Scout troops from across the region march towards Manger Square. The festivities take place throughout the day until the traditional midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, venerated by the faithful as the birthplace of Jesus.

    But with less than a week of Christmas, it’s unclear whether authorities will tighten COVID-19 restrictions and cut back on the festivities, like last year.

    Bethlehem, which is separated from neighboring Jerusalem by a concrete barrier, celebrates Christmas several times to fit the calendars of different Christian denominations. Commemorations for the birth of Christ begin on December 24 for Catholic and Protestant Christians. On January 7, the Orthodox churches celebrate, followed by the Armenian community.

    New travel restrictions dampen expectations

    Despite an ongoing vaccination campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the sudden emergence of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has thwarted preparations by the Municipality of Bethlehem to welcome tourists this year.

    Israel reopened its borders on November 1, only to close them again a month later to curb the spread of the new variant – just before the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the start of the Christmas season. Only a few tourist groups have visited in recent months. Tourists could not travel to the West Bank either.

    A Palestinian vendor works in Manger Square in Bethlehem, holding balloons, next to a large Christmas tree

    It has been another difficult year for the people of Bethlehem, many of whom depend on tourism.

    “People had a little more hope, but after that [the closure] there won’t be many tourists, ”says Elias Halabi, a young Palestinian photographer, standing in front of the large Christmas tree that overlooks Manger Square.

    “People are feeling a little depressed again, but we’re still in the Christmas spirit.”

    Every year, Halabi takes photos of the event, each time from a different perspective in the city. “We don’t always have the most beautiful tree in Bethlehem, but we have the Church of the Nativity and that’s what makes it special,” he said.

    Arab Israelis and Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank are expected to visit the city to celebrate the season, as well as Christians from Gaza with special Israeli permits.

    Overall 2021 has been another difficult year for Bethlehem and its people, many of whom are heavily dependent on tourism.

    People sit around a table doing crafts

    This local center, which supports itself by selling ornaments, cribs and other gift items, has been hit hard by COVID

    “It hit us all very hard, whether it was the small craft business, the small guest houses or the big hotels”, explains Mahera Nassar Ghareeb, director of a center for people with intellectual disabilities, located a few steps from the Church of the Nativity. .

    The center supports itself in part by selling ornaments, cribs and other gift items made from felted sheep’s wool by the young women and men who come to the association during the day. “But we want to be optimistic that there will be an end to the virus at some point,” adds Ghareeb.

    Renovated church, but few visitors

    At the heart of the celebrations is the Church of the Nativity, which has welcomed visitors from all over the world for centuries.

    “Despite the bad news about the omicron variant of COVID-19, we hope it will be possible for pilgrims to return and celebrate with local Christians,” said Brother Francesco Patton, the guardian of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land.

    A handful of people in the nearly empty Church of the Nativity

    As in 2020, visitors to the newly renovated Church of the Nativity will find themselves with plenty of room to reflect.

    Over the past decade, the church has undergone massive restoration, but the pandemic has made things much calmer. There are no lines these days to enter the cave where a silver star marks the spot where Jesus would have been born.

    Just outside, in Manger Square, the Christmas tree and its nativity scene have once again become the center of attention with families and friends snapping photos and selfies.

    “The Christmas season for me is a season of hope – even without facing all that we have faced this year with the coronavirus, there have been many other issues over the years,” said photographer Elias Halabi, referring to the overall conflict situation in the region.

    “But still with everything around us here, the lighting of the trees, the Church of the Nativity, just being in Bethlehem is something so special in itself, that’s what brings hope for us and brings us joy. “

    Edited by: Robert Mudge


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