Egypt: "We’re looking forward to meeting Pope Francis at WYD!"
• More than 100 young people from Egypt are travelling to the World Youth Day in Brazil. ACN has helped many of them.
By Oliver Maksan
“We loved Pope Benedict. He did a great deal for us Christians in the Middle East. We feel close to Pope Francis because he also comes from a developing nation like we do. We are looking forward to meeting him in Rio de Janeiro.” With these words the young Egyptian Michael Dawud is expressing the mood of many Christians in the Middle East. At the age of 30, this IT expert from Fayum, to the south of Cairo, is travelling along with over 100 other young Egyptians aged between 18 and 32 to the World Youth Day in Rio. “We are representing Egypt there. Many people don't even know that there are still Christians in the Middle East. But we want to show our brothers and sisters that there is still a very lively and young Church here, even though we are already 2,000 years old.”
These young Egyptians have been preparing spiritually for several weeks. The theme of the meeting with the Pope – "Go out and make disciples of all nations" – has been at the centre of everything. Michael was responsible for preparing the young people of the Coptic Catholic Church. "On one occasion our Patriarch Ibrahim even visited us and gave us his blessing for the trip", he reports proudly. There are 13 young people of the Coptic Catholic Church travelling to Rio. The rest of the Egyptian group belong to other Catholic communities. Before they travel to Rio to meet the Pope, they will be lodging in São Paulo. Michael is eager to see the unfamiliar culture of Brazil and the people he will meet there. "You don't make a journey like this every week. For many of us it is the first time they have ever left Egypt. They are really excited about it. I'm sure Brazil is very different from Egypt. Yet I believe it's also a very joyful culture."
Sister Josefina da Rocha, a missionary from Brazil who has been living in Egypt for years, is accompanying the young people. "The journey will help to recharge the spiritual batteries of our Christian young people", she says. "It is also important for them to meet other young people from the Middle East. For then they will see that they are not alone alone in the Middle East and can share their problems with one another – Lebanese, Jordanians, young people from Israel and Palestine: many of them will be there. They all know what it make is like to live their faith as a small, beleaguered minority in an Islamic environment. And we will meet them, because many of the events are organised according to language groups."
(Michael Dawud and Sister Josefina da Rocha will attend WYD in Brazil
together with over 100 young people from Egypt © Aid to the Church in Need)
The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has helped many such young people from all over the Middle East. In addition to these young Egyptians there will also be young people from Lebanon and Iraq who have been helped by the charity. One of the focal points for Arab Christians in Brazil will be the Maronite Church in Rio de Janeiro. "The Maronite rite is very similar to the Coptic one. So our young people can feel very much at home in the middle of Rio"says Sister Josefina.
She believes that one of the most important aspects of the journey will be the experience of being part of the Universal Church. "The young Christians from the regions that were the cradle of Christianity can give testimony of their faith to Christians from other countries. On the other hand they themselves will see that they are not alone and that they are united with a truly universal Church. This will strengthen their faith and give them new courage."
Michael fully agrees with Sister Josefina. He is worried at the difficulties that are currently shaking his country. But not despondent. "At the moment it is not easy in Egypt. But I want to make my contribution, as an Egyptian and a Christian, to rebuilding our country. My faith helps me greatly in this. I hope now it will be deepened in Brazil. ”
ACN is contributing a total of $310,000 to enable young people from countries where the Church is poor, persecuted or oppressed, to participate in World Youth Day in Rio in 2013.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
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