Friday, 24 June 2011

Arriving in Egypt - at last!

In April, our Head of Press and InformationJohn Pontifex travelled with a small Aid to the Church in Need team to Egypt on a fact-finding trip. It was his second attempt to visit the faithful in Egypt, after the original travel plans were put on ice as the 25th January Revolution gathered pace. In this series of blogs, John  will be posting his diary entries from the trip, giving an eye-witness glimpse into life for Egypt's 10 million Christians - more than any other country in the Middle East.

Friday, 8th April 2011
Well, here I am; I’ve finally arrived in Egypt! I thought I’d never get here. Our visit here was initially scheduled for February. In fact, that original trip plan couldn’t have been timed worse. Just a few days before we were due to arrive, President Hosni Mubarak relinquished office and beat a hasty retreat. In all the pandemonium, we had no option but to delay and have only just got the green light to come.

Barely six weeks after Mubarak’s departure, we were not a little nervous about coming. I say we – it’s three of us: Regina Lynch and Fr Andrzej Halemba from Aid to the Church in Need’s projects department and very seasoned travellers too. 
Coming out of Cairo’s swanky new airport this afternoon, we knew change was in the air even before we hit the highway. Inching our way out of the car park, we noticed that the car in front had a sticker in the rear window, proclaiming ‘25th January’

Many of the cars we saw were emblazoned with 25 January stickers commemorating the Revolution
 That is the date when ‘The Revolution’ began, with crowds amassing in Tahir Square demanding political change at the highest level. Apparently, 40 million of these stickers have been produced. We soon noticed that a large number of cars were adorned with them. Our driver, Fr Hani, secretary to the Coptic Catholic Patriarch based here in Cairo, said the stickers were seen as a symbol of ‘power to the people’.

Nobody in their wildest dreams believed such a power was capable of bringing down a 30-year regime apparently as rock solid as the Pyramids themselves. What’s strange is that everything here seems so normal – apart from the stickers, there’s little to tell you there’s just been a political earthquake.

The domes of a mosque seen from a motorway in central Cairo
But under the surface may lie a different story. I write this sitting on my bed at a house for retired clergy in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. As I finish for the day, I wonder if our trip here will shed any light on whether such seismic change will continue to be as ‘bloodless’ as it has been thus far. And especially in the light of the purpose of our trip, what will it mean for the country’s Christians?

Find out more about Christians in Egypt at

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