Πέμπτη, 16 Αυγούστου 2018

The great African regreening: millions of 'magical' new trees bring renewal

Farmers in Niger are nurturing gao trees to drive Africa’s biggest environmental change 

Souley Cheibou with an old gao tree he remembers from when he was a child 
Photograph: Ruth Maclean/Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

The Guardian (I saw it here)

Rain had come to nearby villages, but not yet to Droum in south-east Niger. The sand under its stately trees looked completely barren, but Souley Cheibou, a farmer in his 60s, was not worried. He crooked a finger, fished in the sand, and brought out a millet seed. In a week or two, this seed would germinate and sprout, and soon the whole field would be green.

Cheibou’s peace of mind stemmed from the trees encircling him, which had been standing long before he was born. Despite appearances, these were not any old acacias. They were gao trees – known as winterthorns in English – with unique, seemingly magical powers.

From the peanut basin of Senegal to the Seno plains of Mali, to Yatenga, formerly the most degraded region of Burkina Faso, and as far south as Malawi: gaos are thriving in Africa. And over the past three decades, the landscape of southern Niger has been transformed by more than 200m new trees, many of them gaos. They have not been planted but have grown naturally on over 5m hectares of farmland, nurtured by thousands of farmers.

According to scientists, what has happened in Niger – one of the world’s poorest countries – is the largest-scale positive transformation of the environment in the whole of Africa. This is not a grand UN-funded project aiming to offset climate change. Small-scale farmers have achieved it because of what the trees can do for crop yields and other aspects of farming life.

“It’s a magic tree, a very wonderful tree,” said Abasse Tougiani of Niger’s National Institute of Agricultural Research, who has travelled all over Niger studying Faidherbia albida – the gao’s Latin name.

Shielded from the sun, crops planted under the canopy of a tree usually do not do well in the short term, although there can be longer-term benefits. That’s one reason why many west African rainforests have been decimated. But with gaos, it’s the other way round. The root system of the gao is nearly as big as its branches, and unusually it draws nitrogen from the air, fertilising the soil. And unlike other trees in the area, gao tree leaves fall in the rainy season, allowing more sunlight through to the crops at a key moment.

Used along with mineral fertilisers, crop yields double under gaos, and the gao-nourished soil holds water better, ensuring a better crop in drought years. 

A seed-pod of the gao tree. Photograph: 
Ruth Maclean/Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

Counterintuitively, the great gao regreening is only happening in areas of Niger with high-density populations. With less space to expand into as more people are born, hard-up farmers are increasingly realising that the trees can regenerate degraded land.

“It’s literally a story of more people, more trees,” said Chris Reij, a sustainable land management specialist. “The whole point is that the trees are not protected and managed by farmers for their environmental beauty, but because they are part of the agricultural production system.”

Inadvertently, the farmers are also doing their bit to offset climate change. Trees are crucial for storing carbon, absorbing it out of the atmosphere. “In mature, fairly dense areas, you get 30 tons of wood per hectare. Half of that is carbon,” said Gray Tappan, a geographer.

Efforts to restore 100m hectares of degraded African land by 2030 are underway. The ambitious Great Green Wall project to surround the Sahara desert with trees and other plants has changed beyond recognition after debate over whether desertification - the process by which soil loses its fertitlity - is real. Progress is slow. In Niger, where temperatures often reach the 40s, the trees create a cooler microclimate, and rabbits and jackals are coming back.

But none of these grand political projects explains why gaos have caught on. The trees’ pods make very nutritious animal fodder, and fallen branches make good firewood, meaning Droum’s women and children – whose job it is to collect fuel for cooking fires – rarely have to venture further than a few kilometres to find it. 

A Droum resident with the village’s mature gao trees. 
Photograph: Ruth Maclean/Ruth Maclean for the Guardian 

Women in Droum have also made medicine from their gaos for generations. “People come all the way from Zinder [Niger’s second largest city] to buy it,” said Husseina Ibrahim, a busy mother, next to a pot of boiling gao bark. “I’m the only one who makes this here. It’s great for me, it earns me a bit of money which I pay into the women’s cooperative.”

Tales about how the gao came to be so revered abound. Legend has it that crimes against gaos have been taken very seriously since the mid-19th century. “If you touched a branch, you would go to jail,” Tougiani said. In splendid brocade robes and curly-toed velvet slippers, surrounded by self-portraits and stick-wielding guards dressed in red and green, today’s district chief in Droum takes a slightly softer approach.

Gao bark powder and infusion, which locals say cures haemmerhoids. 

Photograph: Ruth Maclean/Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

“It’s shameful to have to come before the chief and explain yourself. Often that’s punishment enough,” Maman Ali Kaoura said. Droum’s reoffenders face fines of between 5,000 to 10,000 West African CFA francs (£6.75-£13.50), a huge amount for hard-up farmers.

A sense of ownership has been key in the regreening of Niger. Until the mid-1980s, every tree was considered to belong to the state. When this changed, regreening began, as people were happier to look after trees that belonged to them. In areas with the best cover, they organised patrols to protect their trees from passing farmers and neighbouring villagers seeking firewood.

Once people discovered that “one gao was equal to 10 cows” for fertilising, as Tougiani put it, the tree’s popularity took off. Several schemes, including one where farmers with more than 50 gaos were paid 50 CFA for each one, helped it along. 

A Droum farmer opens his millet store. 
Photograph: Ruth Maclean/Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

But their loyalty to their gaos could make areas around Zinder the most vulnerable to a disease that Reij and Tougiani have recently spotted killing trees near Niamey, the capital. If it spreads, the losses could be enormous, particularly in places where there is a near-monoculture of gaos.

“I’m worried, because it’s green oil for farmers – it’s their wealth,” said Tougiani. “If they lose Faidherbia albida, they’ll lose their way of life. They’ll have to leave the village.”

Παρασκευή, 10 Αυγούστου 2018


Patriarchate of Alexandria & all Africa

On 7th August 2018, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, welcomed to the Board Room of the patriarchal Mansion in Alexandria, the representatives of the Department of Preservation and Restoration of Manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in order for them to return the 10th batch eight restored manuscripts of the Patriarchal Library, which were preserved and digitalized by kind sponsorship of the A.G. LEVENTI Foundation in Cyprus.

These are books dating back to the 15th century, among them the handwritten and signed "Dogmatiki", the work of st Meletius Pegas (1468 ["N": ?]) and the rare Evangelistarion in the Arabic language (1473), from the Mameluk era. 

During the handover, His Beatitude the Patriarch was astonished when the specialists announced that within the binding of the manuscript, a built-in Pastoral Circular signed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II, called Tranos, was revealed.

His Beatitude praised the preservation, restoration and digitalization efforts of these manuscripts of the Patriarchal Library which is part of the Library of Alexandria, thanked the A.G. Leventi Foundation for its contribution, noting that the collaboration between the Patriarchal Library of Alexandria and the Library of Alexandria brings productive results that play a decisive role in preserving our cultural heritage.

Meletius I Pegas of Alexandria (from Wikipedia)
Meletius I Pegas (Greek: Μελέτιος Πηγάς; 1549 – 12 September 1601) served as Greek Patriarch of Alexandria between 1590 and 1601. Simultaneously from 1597 to 1598 he served also as locum tenens of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He is honoured as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church,[1] with his feast day held on September 13.[2][3]
Icon from here
Meletius was born in Candia (Heraklion) in the island of Crete, at the time capital of the Venetian Kingdom of Candia in 1549,[4] and he studied classical philology, philosophy and medicine in Padua. He became protosyncellus of the Patriarch of Alexandria Silvester, at whose death he succeeded on 5 August 1590.[5]

Even if he supported the doctrine of transubstantiation, he was a fierce opponent of the Catholic Church, and worked for the reunion of the Greek Church with the Coptic Church. In 1593 he participated in a synod in Constantinople which confirmed the establishment of the Patriarchate of Moscow.[1]
Without resigning as Patriarch of Alexandria, he served as locum tenens of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople between December 1596 and February 1597, and from end March 1597 to March or April 1598, when he resigned to go on dealing only with his Egyptian see.[4]
He died in Alexandria on 12 September 1601.[4]
MELETIOS PIGAS (1590-1601)
From the site of the Patriarchate of Alexandria
He was the Chancellor of the Patriarchate of Alexandria during the Patriarchal tenure of Sylvester, his predecessor, whom he succeeded to the Patriarchal Throne. He faced overwhelming financial debts of the Church to the Sultan. He also stood against the activities of proselytism by the Jesuit monks against the Orthodox Christians of Egypt.
He participated in the work of the Local Synod in 1593 in Constantinople , on the ratification of the establishment of a Russian Patriarchate. He tried to bring about the unity of the Copts of Egypt and Ethiopia (Abyssinia) with the Orthodox, but also saw to more general pastoral, inter-Christian and inter-Church issues. He was also the “Supervisor” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He died aged 52 and is honoured as a Saint of the Church.

Ecumenican Patriarch Jeremias II Tranos (from Orthodoxwiki)
Jeremias II Tranos was the Patriarch of Constantinople during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. He served as patriarch for three separate periods: from 1572 to 1579, from 1580 to 1584, and from 1587 to 1595. During his first term as patriarch, Jeremias engaged in correspondence with Lutheran theologians of the University of Tubingen concerning inclinations of the Patriarchate toward a union of the Orthodox and Lutheran Churches. He was a sound theologian, an ardent reformer, and a fierce enemy to simony (simony is the act of selling church offices and roles. It is named after Simon Magus, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9–24 as having offered two disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment in exchange for their empowering him to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to anyone on whom he would place his hands. The term extends to other forms of trafficking for money in "spiritual things.", from here).

In the year 1536 Jeremias was born into the influential Greek Tranos family in the town of Anchialos, Pontus, today known as Pomorie, on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. He was the pupil of three scholars of the day: Hierotheos of Monemvasia, Arsenios of Tirnovo and Damaskinos the Stoudite, who themselves had been students of Theophanes Eleavoulkos. He was also for a while the student of the scholar Matthew the Cretan.
At the time he was first elected to the Patriarchal throne on May 5, 1572, at the age 36, Jeremias had been Metropolitan of Larisa. When he was installed to that see of Larisa is unknown. After becoming patriarch, Jeremias set upon reorganizing the Church of Constantinople and embarked on a policy of reemphasizing the canons and existing ecclesiastical laws. He also strove to improve the financial situation of the Patriarchate. 
Jeremias maintained contacts with the noted Orthodox personalities of his day. He also was successful in obtaining certain privileges from the Sultan for the Greek minorities within the Ottoman Empire, particularly in establishment of schools. Through his influence seven schools were opened during the sixteenth century. In the following centuries another 40 schools were opened across Greece and Asia Minor.
During his first term as patriarch, Jeremias received a number of letters from the Lutheran theologians of the University of Tubingen that proposed union between the Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church. This represented the first significant theological exchanges between the Orthodox and Protestants. The correspondence was initiated by a letter, delivered by Stephen Gerlach, the chaplain at the German Embassy to the Sublime Porte (Sultan’s seat of government), on October 15, 1573. This event began an exchange of theological positions over the next several years. 

The letters in reply were written for Patr. Jeremias by his notary, Theodosios Zygomalas. At first, Jeremias’ replies were compilations of the Church Fathers and more recent writers. A second letter of September 15, 1574, followed by a third dated March 20, 1575 from Tubingen included a Greek translation of the “Augsburg Confession” and Greek translations of sermons by Jakob Andre, the chancellor of the University of Tubingen that defined the Lutheran creed. Jeremias’ reply of May 15, 1576 summarized those points upon which there was agreement between the Orthodox and Lutheran doctrines and those on which there was no agreement, with explanations on the Orthodox views on each question. In the correspondence during the following years until 1581 it became clear that the theological differences were not reconcilable and the correspondence came to an end. 

Patr. Jeremias, as other patriarchs of the Ottoman era, was caught in the intrigues and politics that surrounded the Patriarchal office under the Ottomans. He came to the office after his predecessor, Metrophanes III, was removed from office, allegedly for pro-Roman tendencies and the desire of the Sultan to limit the duration of a patriarch’s time in office. Jeremias was replaced for a short period again by Metrophanes III before he was re-elected a second time. Jeremias was then deposed a second time from office in 1584 through the intrigues of Pachomius, who succeeded him, before returning as patriarch in 1586 after the deposition of Theoleptus II who had succeeded Pachomius.
With the issuance of a new civil calendar by a papal decree on February 24, 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, bearing his name, its consideration and rejection was the subject of three councils in Constantinople convened by Patr. Jeremias. The councils and principal members were:
The 1583 Council of Constantinople held on November 20, 1583 with Patriarchs Jeremias II (Tranos) of Constantinople, Sylvester of Alexandria, Sophronius IV of Jerusalem, with other hierarchs. Issued Sigillion of 1583
The 1587 Council of Constantinople with Patriarchs Jeremias II of Constantinople and Sophronius IV of Jerusalem and Meletius Pegas, representing the Church of Alexandria.
The 1593 Council of Constantinople held in February 1593 in the Church of the Mother of God of Consolation, with Patriarchs Jeremias II of Constantinople, Joachim of Antioch, and Meletius I Pegas of Alexandria, and Sophronius IV of Jerusalem.
In 1589, Jeremias, acting on a request of Boris Godunov during reign of the Tsar Theodore (Feodor I) of Moscow, and with the concurrence of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, formalized the autocephaly of the Church of Russia as a new patriarchate by installing Metropolitan Job of Moscow as the first Patriarch of Moscow during a visit to Moscow in January, 1589, thus recognizing the independence of Russian Church that it had declared since 1448.
In 1595, Jeremias II reposed in Constantinople while still patriarch.


Jeremias II is thought to be probably the ablest patriarch to have sat on the Patriarchal throne in Constantinople during the Ottoman period. He had surrounded himself with able and learned men who were knowledgeable in Greek and Latin thought during times of intrigue and Ottoman subjection. Recognizing the importance of the newly invented printing press, he founded the first publishing house in Constantinople. [1]


Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Home
The Orthodox Church of Alexandria & the Patriarchate of Alexandria 
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life 


Patriarchate of Alexandria & all Africa

One of the most important visions of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa is becoming a reality. For the very first time, enrolments are starting at the newly-established “ST MARK” Academy of Orthodox Theological Studies of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, Students from all over the world who which to come to know Orthodox Theology, Faith and Life, will be able to study there through distance learning by correspondence. The duration of the study course is three years and the lessons will be in English.
For more information regarding the distance learning Academic study programme, visit the official website at www.stmarksacademy.co.za

Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Africa (Patriarchate of Alexandria & all Africa) endorses St Mark’s Academy (here)

From the site of the Academy:

Situated physically in South Africa, our Academy bears the name of St Mark and honours him as founder of the Church of Alexandria and Apostle to Africa.
Mark served as a missionary companion to Paul (Acts 12:25). He also served with the Apostle Peter, probably at Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Mark learned the information he wrote in his gospel mainly from Peter. In around AD 44, Mark travelled to Alexandria and founded the Church there. From Alexandria, Christianity spread to the rest of Africa. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is successor to Mark’s original Community.
St Mark’s Academy offers a quality, contemporary and challenging theological education to people throughout the world. They might otherwise be unable to attend because of time and monetary constraints, work or family commitments and geographical distance. Although located in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Academy makes use of Distance Learning and affordable tuition to overcome such obstacles.
It is hosted and administered by the South African Hellenic Educational and Technical Institute (SAHETI) that is presently embarking on exciting new ventures in fields of tertiary education and training. The Academy bears the stamp of approval and blessing of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.

Orthodox Archbishopric of Good Hop, Cape Town
The Orthodox Church in South Africa
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life   

Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria: “Zimbabwe will prosper with the unity of its Leaders and People”

With the opportunity of the recent National Presidential, Parliamentary and Municipal Elections in Zimbabwe, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Primate of the Orthodox Church on the African Continent, in consultation with the local Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe, gave directions for the positive contribution of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and our Orthodox faithful for the peaceful conduct of the crucial elections and dealing with the danger of controversy leading the country into a civil war. His Beatitude is well aware of the situation in the country, in which he served as Metropolitan of Zimbabwe prior to his election to the Patriarchal Throne of the Apostle Mark and which he often visits during his pastoral visits to the Holy Metropolises and Dioceses of the Throne. 
For this purpose, in all the Orthodox Churches, a special prayer was made for the unity of the Leaders of the Country and their Political Parties, for the peaceful conduct of the elections, in order to protect the unity of the People.
Emphasized in the Patriarchal Message of the Alexandrian Primate Theodoros, was that "Without the unity of the Leaders, the unity of the People cannot be protected, and without the unity of the People, the country, plagued by the problem of poverty and economic collapse, can not prosper." 

Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) had as its president since its Independence in 1980, Mr Mugabe, up until November last year when he was overthrown by bloodless military intervention, to restore the spirit of the of revolution to liberate the country from the colonialists. In the recent National Elections of July 30, there were 23 nominations for the position of President of the country, for the positions of 210 members of the Parliament and the Senate there were over 4,000 candidates and for positions of Mayors and Councilors over 50,000 candidates. The candidate of the ruling party, Mr.Mnangagwa, won the presidential election with 50,8%, as well as 145 seats out of the 210 of the Parliament and the Senate. The Opposition reacted with violent demonstrations that led to the army's intervention to restore order, resulting in the death and injury of demonstrators.
Alexandrian Primate Theodoros appealed to all parties to abstain from any form of violence and to solve their differences through peaceful dialogue and to work for the protection of the people and the welfare of the country. Similar calls have been made by the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Guterres and the International Community. 


In his message His Beatitude did not fail to thank our brothers and sisters in Greece and Cyprus, who even though many of them are victims of the economic crisis of recent years, do not cease, with great love and sacrifices, doing themselves without many things, from continuing in a remarkable way to help poor and orphaned Zimbabwean children and those in other African countries who suffer from poverty and drought. He thanked the "Friends of the Zimbabwe Mission" Association and especially the President, Mr. Spyridon Marangos and his Council Members in this direction.
It is worth mentioning that, under the instructions of the Alexandrian Primate, that the Zimbabwean Metropolis, the Members of the Hellenic Community and our Diplomatic Authorities, as well as our Orthodox Brothers and sisters of the local population, work together with their peaceful presence to contribute to the case of the reconciliation of the People, abstaining from any form of confrontation between the political forces of the country, working to strengthen unity, peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and tolerance.
You can see also

Δευτέρα, 6 Αυγούστου 2018

Preparing for the Underground Church

fr John Peck / The Orthodox Church or Tomorrow 
By Pastor Richard Wurmbrand

Christian pastors must learn what an underground church looks like and what it does. I spoke with a bishop in Britain for an hour or so about underground church work. Finally, he said,
“Excuse me, but you speak of my hobby; I am very interested in church architecture. Would you please tell me if the underground churches use Gothic styles in the building of churches?”
The Underground Church is comparatively unknown. We have it right next door, but we are not ready to join it and we are not trained for it. Every Christian pastor must know this because we might pass through tragic circumstances. Even if we do not pass through these tragic circumstances we have a duty to help and to instruct those who do pass through them.
In Muslim nations, in Red China and so on, many believers have become victims. Many have gone into prisons and many have died in prison. We cannot be proud of this. The better thing would have been to be well instructed on how to do underground work and not to be captured. I admire those who know how to work so well that they are not caught.
We have to know the underground work. 


Suffering cannot be avoided in the Underground Church, whatever measures are taken, but suffering should be reduced to the minimum.
What happens in a country when oppressive powers take over? In some countries the terror starts at once, as in Mozambique and Cambodia. In other places religious liberty follows as never before. And so it begins. Some regimes come to power without having real power. They do not have the people on their side. They have not necessarily organized their police and their staff of the army yet.
In Russia, the Communists gave immediately great liberty to the Protestants in order to destroy the Orthodox. When they had destroyed the Orthodox, the turn came for the Protestants. The initial situation does not last long. During that time they infiltrate the churches, putting their men in leadership. They find out the weaknesses of pastors. Some might be ambitious men; some might be entrapped with the love of money. Another might have a hidden sin somewhere, wherewith he may be blackmailed. They explain that they would make it known and thus put their men in leadership. Then, at a certain moment the great persecution begins. In Romania such a clamp-down happened in one day. All the Catholic bishops went to prison, along with innumerable priests, monks and nuns. Then many Protestant pastors of all denominations were arrested. Many died in prison.
“Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Thy saints at Jerusalem: But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake “-(Acts 9:13, 15 and 16).
Jesus, our Lord, told Ananias:
“Meet Saul of Tarsus. He will be My underground pastor, My underground worker.”
That is what St. Paul was – a pastor of an Underground Church. Jesus started a crash course for this underground pastor. He started it with the words,
“I will show (him) how great things he must suffer…”
Preparation for underground work begins by studying sufferology, martyrology. Later, we will look at the technical side of underground work, but first of all there must be a certain spiritual preparation for it.
In a free country, to be a member of a church, it is enough to believe and to be baptized. In the Church underground it is not enough to be a member in it. You can be baptized and you can believe, but you will not be a member of the Underground Church unless you know how to suffer.
You might have the mightiest faith in the world, but if you are not prepared to suffer, then when you are taken by the police, you will get two slaps and you will declare anything. So the preparation for suffering is one of the essentials of the preparation of underground work.
A Christian does not panic if he is put in prison. For the rank and file believer, prison is a new place to witness for Christ. For a pastor, prison is a new parish. It is a parish with no great income but with great opportunities for work. I speak a little of this in my book, With God In Solitary Confinement.
In other books I mention Morse code, which is also part of the training for the Underground Church. You know what this is – a code by which messages are conveyed. Through this code you can preach the Gospel to those who are to your right and left.
Free parishioners look at their watch;
“Already he has preached for thirty minutes. Will he never finish?”
When arrested, watches are taken away from you; you have the parishioners with you the whole week and can preach to them from morning to night! They have no choice. There have never been, in the history of the Romanian or the Russian Church, so many conversions brought about as there have been in prison. So do not fear prison. Look upon it as just a new assignment given by God.
Men can accept this. But what about the terrible tortures which are inflicted on prisoners? What will we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them? If I do not bear them, I put in prison another fifty or sixty men whom I know because that is what the oppressors wish from me, to betray those around me. Hence comes the great need for preparation for suffering, which must start now. It is too difficult to prepare yourself for it when you are already in prison.

All the article here.

You can see also

Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life   
New Martyr fr Daniel Sysoev († 19.11.2009) - “The warriors of Christ are not killed, but crowned”!...
The Church as the Liberated Zone: "All we Christians are terrorists..." (fr. Daniel Sysoev)
New Martyrs,
Tortures (tag)
New Martyrs (tag in the other our blog)

August 6 & 7: The Light of Transfiguration of the Lord & the day of the 10.000 African Orthodox Saints !