My Travel Report, 19th – 30th of July
I just came back from an eleven day trip to Egypt, together with my friend Rosemarie Buchner and the Swedish journalist Sanna Hill. At Cairo airport we were met by the head of one of our seven partner associations.
The very next morning we went to the Mokattam area, home to about 70.000 people, the majority of which are Christians. They work, sleep and conduct their lives amid garbage. Victims of threats and harrassment, for the best part of the last 40 years, the Christians have had to flee their home villages, mostly in upper Egypt.
In some areas of Egypt, they still have to pay the Jizya, the per capita yearly tax, levied by some Muslim states on certain non-Muslim subjects. Upon their arrival in Cairo, the message from the authorities is: “go to Mokattam, your friends are there already.” And collecting garbage seems the only means of employment open to them. This garbage area has become a city on its own, with schools, churches and clinics.
The head of our local association, Dr. Samuel, also runs a clinic in the area. I presented the clinic with a considerable amount of medicine, all kindly donated by the company Medio.
The garbage area – a city of its own
Our help in the form of funds for food bags, reaches 375 of the poorest families and is provided on a permanent basis. As well as providing school material for some 6000 children, our help package also includes an amount of 350$ for a dowry for girls and kitchen material. This form of conjugal funds does increase their chances of getting married. Unmarried, they are permanently in danger of being raped, and are seen as fair game by the men. For as the Muslims say, once a woman is married, she has been besmirched by a heretic, and is therefore safe from being raped.
In a newly built area, we saw a Coptic church, that had just been erected. And right beside it, we saw a mosque under construction. We were told that this is the common practise everywhere, as there is an Egyptian law that states that all buildings within 100 meters of a mosque become its property. This legislation is regularly invoked to harass Christians, and for example, they are not allowed to renovate their churches.
Retreat in the desert
After that, we drove towards Alexandria to our destination in Anaphora, a spiritual retreat center in the desert, run by the Coptic church. In here I found time for myself and to reflect upon things. I worked on my new book project, which is about special encounters with God. In it, I try to describe what gives me strenght in difficult situations. I had such encounters since my childhood, and my father always said: “be quiet, don’t tell anybody about it, maybe people would call you a psycho, or somehow holy.”
Last picture taken of Maria before she was killed by the mob!
In Anaphora, Rosemarie and I discussed at length her new project, which will include our foundation as cooperating partner. The project aims at housing the internally displaced Christian refugees. In El Qusiya, upper Egypt, our friend bishop Thomas has already acquired 540 hectares of land, which will house 60 families from the start. Later, this will become a whole village for more than 1000 people. They all are supposed to live independently, providing for themselves by the fruit of their labour.
Many cruel stories
While in Anaphora, I held many therapy sessions in the evenings, and sometimes well into the night. Many refugees from upper Egypt came to me; they were all Christians living in the area. I heard a lot of cruel stories, but one is engraved in my memory. It took place in Al Minya, a region, where Christians have been under threat for months now. A lynch mob caught a 68 years old woman, they stripped her naked, slit her skin with knives, tied her up behind a donkey and proceeded to drag her through the whole city. Her name was Maria, I knew her. Her nephew is a priest and a member of our partner association in that area. He was the one that told us her story.
The next day, we brought a lot of medicine, some 150.000 pills, to the four monasteries in the area, St. Mary Alsourian, Deir Anba Bishoy, Deir Paromeos, Deir St. Makarius. Each of these monasteries has between 120 to 200 monks and nuns.
Refugees from Iraq and Syria
It was my last day in Cairo and as I had some money left, I wanted to make a donation to some of the refugees from Iraq and Syria, who are living there. They sleep under bridges and try to survive by begging on the streets. They all want to go back to their home countries, they do not want to go to Europe. I met 70 families at a gathering organized by our association.
Afterwards I visited the only Syrian Orthodox Church in Cairo, St. Mary. This was my trip; we could help about 8000 people. Of course only by Your generous donations, my Dear Friends!
May Gods blessings be with You,
Sister Hatune Dogan
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