VISIT TO CAIRO March 2016
BY MEMBERS OF ST BENE’T’S CHURCH, CAMBRIDGE AND ST MATTHEW’S CHURCH CROYDON including two members of the EDA committee. We also met Jess a Cambridge (Corpus Christi) student in Cairo for this year and two of her college friends visiting her at the time and Jo Rozeik, Sheila’s niece, was with us and it was great to have young people in the party.
There is no substitute for seeing a place and meeting its people for yourself. The purpose of our visit to Cairo was to make this possible for a number of people from St Bene’t’s and St Matthew’s, to help forge a lasting and supportive link between these parishes and the Diocese of Egypt and North Africa. Egypt has been through great upheavals in the last five years. We were able to hear and see for ourselves how Christians are faring in the present circumstances, in the Anglican and other mainstream churches and in the various medical and community projects to which they are committed.
We encountered no difficulties – apart from the Cairo traffic! – in fulfilling every aspect of a comprehensive programme of visits over seven days, prepared with great success by Sheila Rozeik. We visited the Diocesan Deaf Unit in Cairo and the Vocational Training Centre for deaf adults in 6 October City; and the Community Centre in Ain Shams, a poor suburb, with its nursery and educational facilities especially to empower women through literacy, numeracy and the micro-financing of small businesses. We went out to Mokattam to see the Cave Churches where large numbers of Christian Zabbaleen worship, the people who have made a living out of recycling the rubbish of Cairo. We visited two inspiring schools, one for boys in the town and one with a playground full of lively pre-school children. The school is actively supported by Sheila Rozeik, one of the party from Cambridge, and her family and it was good to see the new classroom made possible by their fund raising. Jane Hunt memorably, with some help from us with walk-on parts, held one class riveted with a the story of the Greedy Crocodile using hand puppets.
“We met Bishop Mouneer who generously spent time to tell us about his priorities in ministry, which included the hope that we might be able to facilitate exchanges or placements for clergy from Egypt and the UK. He also talked about the current political situation and about the really encouraging initiatives in bringing Christian clergy together regularly with Imams in dialogue and friendship. “
It was hard not to be impressed by the work of the Bible Society of Egypt and the wonderful educational facilities and displays they have at their headquarters. They now work very closely with the clergy of the Coptic Orthodox Church which has hugely increased their opportunities and impact.
At Harpur Memorial Hospital it was made plain to us how important it is that doctors from Egypt have the opportunity to go the UK or Europe, even for short periods. There they are able to observe the latest techniques and practice, even if they cannot actually practise themselves in the hospital. Opportunities like this are invaluable. We now, back at home, have to try to see if we can make them possible, perhaps through our local contacts.
We made time to visit many of the splendid historic monuments and sights of Cairo, the suq and mosques. We went to a breath-taking display of Sufi dervish dancing and music. We were astounded to go out to the Pyramids and find there were no foreign tourists at all. Ours was the only bus in the car park. We also took a day out at one of the ancient monasteries at Wadi Natrun and at the neighbouring modern retreat centre at Anafora with impressive new facilities for groups and visitors of all sorts, including a splendid new church.
The Diocesan Guest House by the cathedral was a perfect base and home for the week where we could meet, have meals, pray together and sleep. Our prayer now is that both our friends in Cairo and we, by God’s grace, will be able to go on uncovering what God means us to share now that we have made this connection.