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A man named ‘lantern’ finds a buried treasure, and with the money builds a church and extends a priesthood. If only all tales of Coptic Orthodox churches were so adventurous. (Some are.)

The village of Qufādah, home of the Virgin Mary and St. Abaskhiroun Church, is about a 30-45 minute drive from Maghāghah, 160 kilometers south of Cairo, in the governorate of Minya.

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The narrow streets in Al Zawya Al Hamra are quiet. A donkey pulls a cart, a woman carries fresh bread on her head and some boys are repairing their TukTuk. On such mornings, it is hard to imagine that these same streets once were the stage of tragic fights between Muslim and Christian residents. In june 1981, a conflict escalated dramtically causing a number of deaths and more injuries. Today the people in this poor area live in harmony, but what are the chances of a conflict like this to happen again?

Kased (b. 1931 - ) was with the first groups who came from the North to settle in Al Zawya Al Hamra. Back then the area consisted mainly of agricultural land and the buildings these people built were illegal. The rapidly growing number of inhabitants resulted in densely populated and poor area. Living here for almost sixty years, Kased says the area was always a peaceful place – “The relations between Muslim and Christian people were good, we always lived in good harmony.”

 Relief work

Jaqueline is one of the three stewards in charge of the St. Verina project in Zawya Al Hamra. She explains how this project is of great value for the area. “Because of the basic health class”, she told me, “we could help people treat problems they cannot locate themselves. These are often easy to cure, but the psychological relief is great.” The help for the needy is thoroughly undertaken. “First,” she explains, “we do research on the people in the area and look for the most urgent cases. Sometimes we try to find a new apartment, sometimes we fix walls and floors and sometimes we help [them] financially. Whether muslim or Christian, we’re here for the poor.”

 When you ask the local priest, Abouna Youssef, if he thinks such incidents could ever happen again he is firm in his answer. “No, not possible. The reason for this,” he continues, “is that we take care of our people. Back in 1981 the area was very poor, health conditions were bad and education was low. All of these factors add up to a higher risk of violent incidents.”

 Abouna Youssef, himself has good relations with local Muslim leaders. “We often visit each other, and when there is a problem concerning our people we talk about this [and try to] find a fitting solution. Of course, there are still some Brotherhood supporters in this area, but not enough to stir up violent incidents like those in the past. I’m sure Muslims will prevent this too.”

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“Respect for children starts with respect among children for each other,” said Herman Kaiser, Mayor of Arnhem during the 10th anniversary of the International Monument for the Unknown Child in the Netherlands on September 28, 2014. 

Dr. Farouk Hosni, Minister of Culture of Egypt from 1987 to 2011, donated a 3000 kg granite stone from an ancient quarry near Aswan [Assūan] that had been used by the pharaohs thousands of years before. It couldn’t be more characteristic of Egypt. 

21. A Western-Islamic Account on Spirituality, Ramadan, and interfaith reconciliation

The relationship between expatriates living in Egypt and Ramadan can be a love-hate relationship. Some might argue that Ramadan is the ‘most unproductive month of the year’. People work less hours and businesses can get a bit slow. On the other hand, however, very few can deny the level of contagiousness of spirituality in Ramadan. Thousands upon thousands flood the streets and mosques, praying for God’s mercy and blessings. One can hear the Qur’an at every corner of the country and solidarity and compassion between people is unmatched in any other time of the year.

20. Basic Facts about Ramadan

The month of July is to be the month of Ramadan this year. At the time of writing this article, it was expected that the beginning of Ramadan will be the 29th of June, this is a presumption based on astrological knowledge. The real beginning will be announced in every country by the “ro’ya”, i.e. to look and see  if the new moon is visible or not. The period of the moon defines the beginning of every month and so the year of the Western calendar includes 10 days more than the Islamic calendar. For this reason, Ramadan begins each year, 10 days before last years Ramadan and the feast at the end of the month, the “eid al fitr” will start on the 28th or 29th July.

19. Ramadan as intercultural, interfaith experience

This summer will mark my third Ramadan spent in Egypt since I began traveling to the country in January 2011.  My first experience of an Egyptian Ramadan in the summer of 2011 remains particularly memorable, both as a cultural and personal experience.

18. Studying Arabic in Cairo

As a student who signed up to study Arabic in the autumn of 2010, I looked forward to the third year of my degree (abroad in an Arabic-speaking country) with a lot of excitement – there were so many options to choose from. I had organised a three-month teaching placement in Muscat, Oman to begin in January. I flew out on the 14th January, 2011, – the same day Tunisian president, Zine Ben Ali was deposed. Those first three months became the Arab Spring, and as protests continued, in some cases toppling governments, I contemplated a year in an Arab world much changed from the one I had expected. 

5. Meeting with Pope Tawadros II, the Holy Week and Easter
 
Dr. Enan Galaly, having the Knight of Dannebrog title bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Ambassador of Historical Relations between Denmark and the Middle East and chairman of the Advisory Council for the International Association of University Presidents worldwide, and Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report, were blessed on March 5 by Pope Tawadros II. The meeting was about the importance of the route of the Holy Family in Egypt. Egypt was blessed by the Holy Family, the pope said, and so are visits to locations that were blessed by the Holy Family. The pope is in contact with the Ministry of Tourism about efforts to promote pilgrimage. Read more here.
 
Arab-West Report uses this occasion to congratulate our Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian friends with Easter.
 
 
 

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It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for people to make efforts to discredit their opponents with distortions and lies. It becomes even more questionable if people who make false claims want to remain anonymous. The author must be someone who knows several things about me. That makes an anonymous response even more cowardly. Only in February this year I was alerted that I was attacked on the website www.mobtada.com. I responded in a letter on February 8 (see below). I had expected that the author of the attack on me would respond but he preferred not to and remains anonymous. This is of course very weak.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine initially wanted to interview a Catholic Christian family in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minia about their preparations for Christmas in November 2013. Tensions were still running deep in Egypt after extremists had destroyed tens of churches in Egypt, including many in Minia. The Catholic Bishop of Minia, however, agreed to help find a family. A family was identified, but shortly before journalist Michael Obert and photographer Andy Spyra came to Egypt, the family decided to cancel any meeting for fear of rumors that could follow the visit of foreigners to their area. Their fear was certainly justified. Rumors, deliberately created or not, can cause a lot of harm.

In its dispatch no. 5657 MEMRI focuses on the mutual accusations between supporters of the current regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. “Each camp accuses members of the other camp of being Jewish and of implementing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The MEMRI report is full of examples from both camps with photos and cartoons. 

The claims and articles are part of the de-legitimization campaign in which both camps are involved. It is sad that both camps are engaging in such outrageous campaigns, but the value of this should not be overstated. 

Raymond Ibrahim, author of “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians,” is blatantly anti-Muslim in his writings. He is doing ‘well’ in creating fear for Muslims. 

Ibrahim interprets all violence of Muslims against Christians as something that is motivated through Islam as religion. The problem is in his generalizations. It is simply not true that all violence of Muslims against non-Muslims has a religious motivation but each time Ibrahim finds such violence he claims it to be motivated by Islam, while I have found through my work for Arab-West Report that violence is often related to many other factors such as the weak rule of law in Egypt.

On Friday, November 29, an article appeared in al-Fath, an independent Salafī newspaper, written by reporters Tāriq Bahgat and Walīd Mansūr. [1] The article reports on the discussion that took place between Bishop Bola, the representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Constituent Assembly, and Al-Azhar scholars about the articles relating to Al-Azhar in the Constitution as well as the so-called “identity articles”, which pertain to the interpretation of Islamic sharī’ah in the new constitution and the role of Al-Azhar. Whereas the Nūr Party representatives sought to impose a stricter interpretation of shar’īah and include it in the draft together with a stronger role for Al-Azhar, the representatives of the Churches refused that. [2] The discussion escalated to the point that Bishop Bola threatened to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly. [3] The article expresses polemic views against Bishop Bola and against the Church’s position of the aforementioned articles.

 

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Newsclippings from International Sources

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Former air marshal Husni Mubarak, now 86, had ruled Egypt for 30 years when his military colleagues forced him from office in 2011. Three years and many upheavals later, those same colleagues replaced his successor with retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 59. The country, in short, made a grand round-trip, going from military ruler to military ruler, simply dropping down a generation.

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Security forces in Minya arrested Tuesday a new defendant among other suspects of breaking into and bombing the Evangelical Church in Mallawi, southern Minya (Upper Egypt).

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Coptic Solidarity released a statement on Tuesday condemning The Working Group on Egypt’s letter to President Obama.

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Al-Rawdal al-Haditha private school in 6 of October City in Giza governorate is segregating Christian and Muslim students, said Rev. Refaat Fikri, pastor of the Evangelical Church in Shubra and chairman of the Evangelical Church Information and Publishing Committee.

 
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Lawyer Samir Nazer, a member of the Coptic Christian family called Agoura in Al-Shamiya village, Assiut (Upper Egypt), said, “We appealed on Monday to the President of the Republic, the Minister of Interior, the Attorney General, and the Assiut director of security because a group of thugs led by Ashraf Ahmed Mohamed Halika, Salim Ahmed Salim and others seized about fifteen acres” owned by a number of members in his family 15 days ago.
 

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