Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Missing Nigerian Girls 'Should Not Be Traded Off Like Cheap Materials In The Market'

By Linus Okechukwu
Senior Reporter
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Life is a mystery: today turns out great, but tomorrow brings you nothing but sorrow. You see smiles here, but tears at the end of the road.
And I can imagine the tears resting on the faces of those troubled mothers of Chibok whose daughters were stolen away and remain missing. I can understand the unspoken pains perched on the lips of the people of Chibok and sense their eroding serenity.

For 16 days now, peace and happiness have become increasingly elusive in this northern Nigerian town where more than 200 teenage schoolgirls were abducted in a night-time raid on a school hostel.
The terrorist group Boko Haram – which has a history of attacking schools – is widely suspected of the crime.
What was the girls’ offense?
Though a few of the girls – maybe 10 or more – were reported to have escaped and made it home, we don’t know what all happened to the rest.
Today we get the distressing news that a local elder told the BBC that the girls are being married off to Boko Haram militants for 2,000 naira, or about $12 USD.
These missing girls have traveled through agonizing days and nights.
Who knows how they've fared? Who knows how they've been treated?
They never planned on getting married this early. They were innocent students, just willing to learn and acquire vital skills for a better future, young girls whose dreams could inspire visionless men. Now, all their cherished dreams lay in the dreaded hands of cruelty.
The community never anticipated such disaster. The happy faces we’re used to seeing every day now seem to be a rarity because virtually everyone is distraught, anxious. It’s hard to think clearly.
The situation is maddening. Civil groups have vociferously condemned the abduction and an atmosphere of uncertainty prevails.
In the cities of Abuja and Lagos, demonstrators have tried to raise awareness about the missing girls.
Their mothers are wailing and the whole nation is in tears, all because of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has committed many terrorist acts in Nigeria, their last being the bombing of a bus station in Abuja which killed scores of people.
It's rather baffling that the group ignores the impact it has on Nigerian citizens. It’s the ordinary people who suffer the brunt of their actions. The government they purport to be fighting barely get a taste of all they do.
It is imperative for the government to restore sanity. Our broken hearts have endured much more than they should have to bear. Our minds are weary, trying to absorb the atrocities that are now commonplace.
Something must be done to rekindle the dwindling hope of Nigerians. Beyond mere promises, the government must fight back with all it has. Leaders must come to terms with the interests of the people they serve. Promises not backed with stern actions provide no solution.
Terrorism is entirely unacceptable and should not be tolerated anywhere. This menace must stop!
Our girls should not be traded off like cheap materials in the market.
Our centers of learning should not be burnt like coal. Our churches should not be razed like decrepit houses, and our mosques deserve protection, too.
Until we begin to understand that we are collectively suffering an insurgency, we shall be no different from people who get burned yet refuse to get treated.
The first thing we want is a return of our missing girls. We can't wait to see hope for a better country in their eyes.

Damascus, My Beloved Ancient City

Leen Othman /
A narrow, residential alley in Old Damascus

By Leen Othman
Junior Reporter
DAMASCUS, Syria – There’s this little yard north of the Omayyad mosque, where Roman pillars meet with Saladin’s grave and the resting place of three Ottoman pilots. Then, when the chants for prayer are raised, little doves that usually inhabit that yard rise up into the blue sky.
This is a small example of a large Damascus, a little taste of where I get to live and call home.
Describing Damascus historically, geographically, or even socially is impossible using one article. Describing Damascus personally, is impossible using language.

Leen Othman /
Asaad Basha Khan, an ancient hotel
Some people may love their hometowns, others are striving to leave, but for me Damascus is not just a hometown. Damascus is home, it is life, it is me and without Damascus, my soul does not breathe. An exaggeration?
How can you exaggerate how much you love a city that has streets that are 7,000 years old? These same streets have small children running through them, playing in the place where history’s dominant characters once walked.
Leen Othman /
Qasyoun Mount overlooking Damascus at sunrise. This photo was taken during a few days of snow last year.
How can you exaggerate smelling jasmine at every corner? At having an old lady standing at her door, offering you a fresh lemon or orange that she just picked from her yard?
How is it possible to not love seeing two houses, built together, and aged together until they got to the point where they lean in on each other, like their inhabitants.
Leen Othman /
The main entrance to the Ommayad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus
Leen Othman /
Olive Street in Old Damascus
Olive trees, doves in public squares, ancient small doors, cobblestone alleys, grandparents and grandchildren together or a young couple in love, church bells ringing simultaneously with mosque calls, arches of victory and white jasmine petals on the road, fallen from the trees lining the streets.
Damascus is beautiful. It is strong and enduring, yet loving and caring.
Damascus today has a quiet sadness that looms at sunrise and sunset, between the bustle of the day and the stillness of night.
The sadness lives silently, like the pain a mother hides from her children, yet the sense of its agony shows in little moments when the world is not looking. The streets sense it, the buildings sense it, and its sons sense it. Yet they all hold on, they all look up to the great mountain guarding it, waiting for a sun that will rise again without a cloud to block its light.
And until then, magnanimous Damascus holds on with all its might for even history knows that no matter how much it tried to pull her down, she never yields. Hope gets her through each day and through every night.
I was born here, and I lived here, but Damascus has stepped out of whens and wheres for me. It became me or more likely I became a small part of her. I am a small part of the cradle of life, and the birthplace of civilizations, and this is my home.
Leen Othman /
A church bell tower in the Bab Sharki area of old Damascus

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter, The Joyful Day That Follows Lent

By Nchetachi Chukwuajah
Junior Reporter
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria - Easter is here again! It marks the end of the Lenten season – a 40-day period of praying, fasting and penance by some churches.
Easter is viewed within Christianity as a time for celebration. It follows sober reflection and appreciation of the pains and sufferings of Jesus and self-assessment.
For many, it’s also usually a time for visitation and enjoyment. But for youth, especially teens, it is a time to get some rest from the drudgery of schoolwork.
The significance of Easter radiates through all the activities slated for the Holy Week, the beautiful decorations on altars and on the faces of the worshippers.

For Adaobi Okoli, 23, a student of microbiology at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, the celebration of Easter reminds us of how Christ eschewed selfishness and paid for our sins.
"It is a time for reflection on how his death affects our lives," said Okoli.
At the Assemblies of God Church in Hilltop, a stone's throw from campus, people were spotted studying in various Sunday school classes on the topic of “the Risen Christ."
"The death of Christ brought us victory and his resurrection has set us free,” said Pastor Chris Orumah, who leads the Hilltop congregation.
The Rev. Taddeo Onoyima, who officiated the service at St. Peter's Chaplaincy, encouraged Christians to "make necessary sacrifices for others so that life can be better."
A student of medicine and surgery, Jerry Ogbuanu, 25, said he appreciates the fact that Christ died for him.
“It brings to my memory the punishment I would have borne if not that he died for me,” Ogbuanu said.
The significance of Easter is enormous. Many Christians see it as a time for introspection and a time to strive to lead better lives. Christ's tribulation tells us that as Christians, we are not immune from rejection, persecution, trials and suffering.
On the whole, through Christ’s resurrection we are called to steel ourselves against the negative forces of the world and remain resilient in times of pain.
"It is all about God," said Tina Akor, 20. "It signifies the resurrection of Jesus and restoration of man to God. We now have free access to God."
Let this celebration bring us nothing but fulfillment, spiritual growth, good health and peace. Happy Easter! 

Horrific Sinking Of South Korean Ferry Made Even Worse By Irresponsible Media

By Tae Hyun Yoon
Junior Reporter
Wailing parents. Guilt-laden survivors. A horrified public.
As rescue efforts for the Sewol’s last survivors yield more bodies and less hope, it seems that the damage has been done. The South Korean nation must deal with the emotional trauma of a disaster unparalleled in its tragedy since 1993, when the overloaded ferry Seohae sank, taking with it the lives of 292 passengers.

What makes the Sewol’s case even more terrible, however, is that the majority of the roughly 270 people still missing are students supposed to be enjoying a final vacation at the paradise island of Jeju before kicking off a year of grueling preparation for the Korean SATs. It’s sickening business.
The fact that the disaster could have probably been avoided is equally appalling.
In a response to the initial problem that resembled more a horrific circus than a coordinated effort, the crew ordered all individuals to stay where they were, even though water was starting to rush into the ferry at an unsettling pace. Consequently, only one or two lifeboats were deployed out of more than 10, and passengers were left to succumb to watery hell.
Furthermore, sources report that it was not the passengers, nor the other crew members, but the captain that reached the lifeboats first. He now faces charges that may land him in prison for life.
Even after the sinking, rescue operations have constantly been thwarted by muddy water and choppy seas, thus allowing little hope for any survivors in the boat, as by now, they have probably succumbed to the effects of hypothermia and oxygen deprivation.
To top that off, there are reports that the media distorted information released to the public, so much so that the apparent texts that “survivors” sent after the sinking were fabricated. So it is no wonder why parents are frustrated at everybody. They lost their children for no good reason, government rescue teams seem to be doing little more than nothing and hope, in the face of reality, seems to be fading by the hour.
But the cacophony of the aftermath of the sinking seems mostly to be the result of a nation-wide blame game.
Parents who suffered the immense pain of losing a child understandably want answers, and the government’s attempts at providing them with either miracles or answers have failed. Therefore, to escape parental ire, the government has blurred the whole situation to the media – a fatal mistake which led to media accusations flying all over the place.
First, it was the captain who did it. Then, it was the inefficiency of the rescue teams, whom unreliable civilian witnesses accused of incompetence and laziness. After that, it was the ship itself, which is rumored to have been overloaded with cargo.
CNN has even used the situation to attack a supposed “acceptance of suicide” in Korea – a blind jab at an ideological straw-man that served to do nothing but anger even more South Koreans, who clearly do not wish for the death of their countrymen any more than citizens of other nations.
Indeed, one cannot blame anyone for starting this process of scapegoating, and in a sense, it’s inevitable, taking into account the enormous tragedy of the situation. But in the end, it shows the power of modern media to do more harm than good. By blowing up the facts of the matter to disproportionate extents, and by hungrily seeking new leads – wherever they may come from – the media proved their divergence from the most basic of journalistic morals.
In one case, Korean reporters seeking the upper hand for their organization interviewed a traumatized six-year-old girl on the fate of her missing parents immediately after the sinking. The attempts to cover the situation even when there was inadequate information sparked hope in parents’ hearts, only to snatch that hope away and point fingers at other major figures like the government, which had no part in the sinking and was forced to delay rescue operations because of natural obstacles.
Imagine the hearts of the parents of the missing when they see the large letters of newspaper headlines that constantly remind them of what they lost just a few days before. Imagine the anger they would feel as they realize that all of the tragedy they have suffered is simply a “developing story” or a piece of “breaking news.” Anger. Unimaginable hatred. And that’s where the blame-game starts all over again, and where the wheel of revenge begins to turn in timeless fashion, seeding one conflict after the other.  
Ultimately, most of us need to continue what we were doing before: praying for survivors and supporting the relatives of those missing.
But the mainstream media need to wake up. They need to realize that it’s not all about them, but about the families themselves, and about the nation that grieves by their side. They must understand that they’re not just profit machines, but organizations of people, who in the face of such tragedy must comfort each other, not stir up hatred with blown-up headlines and blame games.
May all those who passed away aboard the Sewol rest in peace. And may those who are still missing return home, safe and sound to their family’s arms.

Yoon, who attends high school in Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.A., is from Seoul, South Korea.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passion Play Tells Christ's Story

Festus Iyorah /
Eze Valentine, in the white robe in the center, played the part of Jesus Christ in the Passion Play at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka on Friday.
By Festus Iyorah and Nchetachi Chukwuajah

NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Hundreds of people this week flocked to St. Peter’s Chaplaincy at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka to mark Good Friday as part of the activities scheduled for Holy Week.
For Christians, Good Friday, which is the last Friday before Easter, is an annual Lenten-season event singled out to commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
In Nigeria, the day normally begins with the Passion Play –  a dramatic presentation of Christ’s trial, suffering and death. It ends with a church service.
The officiating minister, the Rev. Hillary Ogbaka, urged participants to emulate Christ’s perseverance before his death and reflect on the way they live their lives.
“We should have a heart of forgiveness as Christ forgives his persecutors amid his suffering,” Ogbaka proclaimed.
John Udeh, a student of agricultural and bio-resources engineering, said the Passion Play helps him to come to grips with the sufferings of Jesus.
“It was great! The actors and the play were great, because it reminds us of what happened at Calvary, and it brings back the passion and sorrow of what the followers then passed through,” said Udeh.
“It was okay; they did well. I enjoyed it!” said Nneka Okeifufe, another student. “They did more than students – they exceeded my expectations.”
The drama was stocked with many interesting actors. For Eze Valentine, the protagonist who played the role of Jesus, it was really a memorable event.
He said he is fulfilled to have played the role of Christ in this year’s Passion Play.
“I am happy I did what I can do, though it is not possible to act as it was then. But I am happy I played this role,” he said.
Festus Iyorah /
Participants follow the procession in the Federation Theatre's production of the Passion Play at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
The drama was presented by students of the Federation Theatre, an organ of the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students.
“I feel accomplished and I am very happy because we showed a glimpse of what happened on the way to Calvary,” said Ogbe Salvator, the coordinator of the Federation Theatre group.
Playing the role of Jesus Christ, according to Eze, will not only help him to reflect on his life but will also go a long way to shape his behavior.
“Some people might see it as a normal play, but after seeing what happened today, my advice is for them to go back and meditate on this event,” Eze said.
Editing by Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Linus Okechukwu in Nsukka.

Spring Is Blooming In Lahore, Pakistan

Arooj Khalid /
One of the many displays at Race Course Park in Lahore, Pakistan.

Story and Photos by Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – The arrival of spring season brings joy for many. Hundreds of flowers bloom to create an atmosphere that feels like a blissful garden of heaven. 
Race Course Park, on Jail Road, always stands prominent in celebrations to welcome the season with festivals, fairs, flower decorating contests and exhibitions.
Managed by the Punjab Horticulture Authority, this year the visitors to the park found themselves on grounds fully adorned with colorful and fragrant flowers.
The free exhibition was open for the entertainment of gardening enthusiasts as well as regular citizens. Some came from far away to see the wonderful display by their skilled gardeners and some found it as a surprise.
Either way, it was beautiful and captured the real joy of spring. 
The flowers seemed to smile and dance with the visitors who cheerfully took photos and praised the flowers. 
Events like this not only provide entertainment, but also inspire people to take an interest in horticulture and gardening.
It’s a pleasant escape from the mundane routine of life. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Grandmother's Lesson: Pysanky, The Ukranian Art Of Decorating Easter Eggs

Tom Vaughn /

A basket of dyed duck eggs in the traditional Ukranian style.
By Tom Vaughn
Junior Reporter
TERRYVILLE, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Every spring, when I was a little boy, I watched my great-grandmother, Milia Serino, color eggs in the traditional Ukranian way.
She learned how to do pysanka, or pysanky if there is more than one egg, from her mother, who immigrated to the United States from Ukraine many years ago.
She first took all her old candles and melted them in pot on the stove. Then she stuck a long sewing needle into an eraser on her pencil, dipped the needle into the melted wax and drew on the egg. This is a different way of doing pysanky, but it works.
Tom Vaughn /

Tom Vaughn's tools for pysanky
The traditional method, which is what I now do, uses a tool called a kistka. It’s a wooden dowel with a metal cone-shaped funnel on the end. Melted wax drips through the funnel onto the egg.
Although using a kistka is easier, I admire my great-grandmother’s needle method because it creates a teardrop-looking line, creating great detail.
The ducks on my farm give two eggs a day, and I use those for coloring. Duck eggs take color better than chicken eggs. And duck eggs have very thick shells, making them easier to hollow out and more durable. I’ve dropped hollowed duck eggs onto the floor by accident and they didn’t break.
Instead of boiling the eggs before coloring, I hollow them out. Boiled eggs can last a few months, but eggs that are drained can last a lifetime.
An old Ukrainian saying goes, “If you have been good since last Easter, your eggs will last 100 years.”
To drain an egg, I push a thumbtack into the top and bottom of the egg to make a small hole on each end.
Then I blow into one of the holes until the contents come out the other end. 
This can be especially difficult with a chicken egg because the shells are more likely to shatter.
After draining the eggs, I rinse them out and let them dry. Then I design them with wax.
I use beeswax, which I find works best. I get mine straight from my beehive, but it is possible to purchase it.

These five photos show
 part of the egg dying
process of drawing
designs, coloring
with wax and then
dipping in the dyes,
 beginning with
 lighter colors and
 gradually working
to darker hues.

The egg is first dyed yellow, and after it dries, more wax is applied, including over the yellow color to keep it intact. Then the egg is dipped into a darker color. The process continues with darker and darker colors until the last color, black.
After the egg is dyed black, the egg is held close to the heat of a candle, and the wax stuck to the egg melts away, showing all of the colors underneath.
You can stop dying the egg at any color. I usually end at black, red, or green.
I use European egg dyes that I get from a seller in Pennsylvania. They’re usually natural material and then you add vinegar and some water.

When my great-grandmother was growing up, hers was a poor farming family, so they stuck to one color – purple, the traditional Easter color – because they couldn’t afford more dyes. They melted wax in an old tin jar lid on the stove.
It also wasn’t okay to waste eggs, so they boiled them and ate all of them at Easter dinner.
Since they used just one color, the eggs were very simple, but I still learned her method.
Tom Vaughn /

A basket of eggs dyed by Tom Vaughn using his great-grandmother's "needle" method.
My great-grandmother was also a great fan of traditional "Egg Tapping" or "Egg Fighting" games.
Later adopted by England, the game can be traced back to 14th century Croatia. In the game, two hard-boiled eggs are hit together.
The egg with the shattered shell loses, and the winner gets to eat the opponent’s egg.
All eggs pictured with this piece were dyed and photographed by reporter Tom Vaughn. Below, an assortment of duck eggs, some plain and some decorated in the Ukranian style.
Tom Vaughn /