Frame 0004
Ukraine: A Ritual Bath in the Frigid ...
Izmail, Ukraine
By danubestory
19 Jan 2014

On the 19th of January, Ukrainian Orthodox Christians observe a special tradition aimed at washing away all their sins and securing good health. One by one they enter the frigid water of a river or lake and submerge themselves three times. In the town of Izmail, this ritual is performed on the banks of the river Danube. In the past, only men bathed in the icy river. Now, ladies also plunge into the cold of the river. On the beach it seems like a hot summer day: ladies in bikinis gather and laugh. However, people well dressed in winter coats remind one of the cold January weather.

Christening, called “Krescenie“ in Ukrainian, is not just about bathing. People meet on the banks of the river and have barbecues, grilling meat, drinking and socializing. Musicians are always nearby. With mulled wine and vodka, the faithful soon forget the cold weather.

Andrey Stefoglo, resident of Izmail, was born with his left hand deformed. Nonetheless, he found work as a hotel manager on a German cruise ship. He is among the luckier of Izmail’s people: he has a good job. The region is poor, being nearly forgotten after the collapse of Soviet Union. People here usually speak Russian. The area was once called Besarabia, and over time, belonged to the Ottoman Empire, Romania and Russia. Here, people of forty ethnic groups and nationalities coexist without any problems.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage (14 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
31 Dec 2012

A pilgrim returns to the camp near Lalibela's rock churches. Thousands of the pious will sleep on the fields in anticipation for the upcoming Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas celebration. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage (13 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priest greets pilgrims as they descend upon Bet Giyorgis, the iconic cross-shaped church. The church, along with 10 other rock churches, make up Lalibela's pilgrimage site. Inside each church is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which is viewed only by the priests and deacons. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage (15 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

A pilgrim enters one of Lalibela's rock churches. Hewn from the mountain, these churches were originally built below ground to evade detection. Called the 'Petra of Africa' due to its striking similarity to Jordan's Petra complex, this site relatively unknown (outside of Ethiopia) draws thousands of pilgrims each year for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas celebration. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage (5 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Serenity and fulfillment consummate one's spiritual journey. For the pilgrims transfixed in prayer, the experience has been a voyage both into the depths of the earth as well as the depths of their own faith. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage (4 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

Resting against the rock face of the church, an Orthodox Christian is caught in a moment of contemplation. Each of the underground churches contain a thick and richly colored curtain hiding a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, viewed only by priests, deacons and bishops. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

Thumb sm
The Pilgrimage
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By U.S. Editor
29 Dec 2012

Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, in the small town of Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Wrapped in shrouds of early morning mist and cotton, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians stand in prayer at the edge of the rock church carved to resemble, what some believe is, Jerusalem. Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is one of the only indigenous, pre-colonial Christian churches in Sub-Saharan Africa and still maintains its ancient rituals.

Thumb sm
Minorities in Georgia (29 of 37)
Bolnisi, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
14 Oct 2012

A cross overlooks a few villages in Bolnisi region in Southern Georgia. Bolnisi region is traditionally populated mostly by ethnic and religious minorities, mostly Azerbaijanis. Such crosses are common throughout the country and are usually symbolically installed by local Orthodox priests and their congregation. In 2003 such cross was installed right at the town square of one of the biggest villages in Bolnisi region, populated mostly by Muslim Azerbaijanis. Offended, the villagers were ready to dismount the cross. After receiving the call about this incident sheikh of Georgia Vagif Akperov, then a mollah in Tbilisi mosque, told villigares to guard the cross day and night, so that nobody would touch it, while he settled the issue down with the Georgian Church officials. "It was a provocation," says Akperov. "Whoever installed this cross, wanted us to destroy it, in order to say later that we're aggresive towards Christian symbols." The case has been quickly settled and the cross has been removed peacefully.

Thumb sm
Minorities in Georgia (28 of 37)
Bolnisi, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
14 Oct 2012

A cross overlooks a few villages in Bolnisi region in Southern Georgia. Bolnisi region is traditionally populated mostly by ethnic and religious minorities, mostly Azerbaijanis. Such crosses are common throughout the country and are usually symbolically installed by local Orthodox priests and their congregation. In 2003 such cross was installed right at the town square of one of the biggest villages in Bolnisi region, populated mostly by Muslim Azerbaijanis. Offended, the villagers were ready to dismount the cross. After receiving the call about this incident sheikh of Georgia Vagif Akperov, then a mollah in Tbilisi mosque, told villigares to guard the cross day and night, so that nobody would touch it, while he settled the issue down with the Georgian Church officials. "It was a provocation," says Akperov. "Whoever installed this cross, wanted us to destroy it, in order to say later that we're aggresive towards Christian symbols." The case has been quickly settled and the cross has been removed peacefully.

Thumb sm
An Armenian Orthodox Church in Baghda...
Baghdad, Iraq
By Mariwan Salihi
06 Nov 2011

The "African ghetto" in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Al-Bataween was previously an affluent Jewish quarter, then inhabited by Iraqi Christians (mostly Armenians) after the Jews left Iraq when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Since the 1970s and 1980s, many African immigrants moved to this area, when Iraq was a rich nation with a large foreign presence. Many of the Africans --mostly Sudanese, Somalians and other East-Africans -- left Iraq in the 1990s and after the 2003 American invasion. But a large number of them still regard Iraq as their nation, and continue to live in this impoverished area in central Baghdad.

Once a posh area of the city, Al-Bataween is one of the last areas of the Iraqi capital where dozens of Baghdadi art-deco styled houses still remain --although in dire need of restoration. Anno 2011, it has been turned into a hub of illegal activity, including prostitution, drug dealing and other crimes - hence the comparison to a "ghetto."

Today, there's only one functioning Synagogue left - Meir Taweig - taken care of by Baghdad's last, and decreasing, Jewish community. There's also an Armenian Orthodox Church, at the end of the main street.

Thumb sm
Minorities in Georgia (36 of 37)
Talaveri, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
15 Nov 2010

Villagers cut meat for Eid al-Adha festival near the mosque in Talaveri village, populated mostly by ethnic Azerbaijanis. In 2009 the construction of the mosque has stopped after a few Georgian Orthodox priests and members of ultra-religious organization The Union of the Orthodox Parents arrived to the village and demanded to stop the construction. The construction resumed in 2010 after the case was widely covered in the local media. The Union is notorious for its frequent protests, some of them ending with violence, against religious and sexual minorities, as well as public celebration of such "satanic" holidays as Halloween. Talaveri, 2010

Thumb sm
Minorities in Georgia ( 35 of 37)
Talaveri, Georgia
By TemoBardzimashvili
15 Nov 2010

The construction of Talaveri mosque. In 2009 the construction of the mosque has stopped after a few Georgian Orthodox priests and members of ultra-religious organization The Union of the Orthodox Parents arrived to the village and demanded to stop the construction. The construction resumed in 2010 after the case was widely covered in the local media. The Union is notorious for its frequent protests, some of them ending with violence, against religious and sexual minorities, as well as public celebration of such "satanic" holidays as Halloween. Talaveri, 2010