Archive for October, 2010

Church Burns in Egypt

On 9 September, my colleague Issam Bishara, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, received an email.  A Coptic Catholic bishop from Egypt wrote to explain that one of the churches in his diocese had burned down.

CNEWA is deeply involved in supporting the church in Egypt.  Bishop Zakaria, who wrote to Issam, has encouraged me to reproduce his email in order to illustrate for CNEWA donors the challenges being faced by Egyptian Christians:

My dear friends,

The peace of our Lord be always with you.

First of all, I ask pardon if I disturb you with this sad message.  Around 1:00 in the early morning of Monday, 6 September 2010, I received many phone calls to inform me that a big fire had destroyed the building the Coptic Catholic Church in the village of Hagazah in the Coptic Catholic Diocese of Luxor. The church was founded by the Franciscan Minor Brothers in the year 1890.

Unfortunately, this village has a difficult history of violence and trouble between Christians and Muslims.  Five years ago, after a disturbance in the market, a Christian killed a Muslim.  Three years ago, during the Easter Vigil, Muslims killed three Christian young people.

When I arrived at Hagazah, I saw that the fire had destroyed the entire church building and nothing was saved.  Yesterday and today, I met with the government and police authorities, and they informed me that the cause of the fire was a short circuit.  During the meeting, I asked permission to prepare a new building to celebrate the Holy Mass on Sunday for about 600 Coptic Catholics who live in the village of Hagazah, but they refused.

I have to say that this is third fire in my diocese.  Three years ago a fire destroyed the third floor of the bishop’s home in Luxor.  One year ago, another fire destroyed a part of the house of the Little Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Isna.  For all three fires, the cause was the same: a short circuit.

I am writing this message to ask for your prayers and solidarity.  The 600 Coptic Catholics of Hagazah, their priest and I need your prayers and brotherhood to strengthen our courage.  Our Lord will help us to continue to live and witness our faith of love and peace.

May Almighty God bless you and your family.

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Joannes Zakaria

Coptic Catholic Bishop of Luxor, Egypt

A true tragedy.  Bishop Zakaria wrote again on 20 September to give Issam an update on the situation.  I was given permission to reproduce the second email as well:

My very dear Mr. Issam Bishara,

May the grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, always be with you, your collaborators and all the generous benefactors of CNEWA.

Thank you for your solidarity.  Above all, thank you for your prayers that I, the pastor and the people of Hagazah need so much at this moment.  Please continue your prayers for us.

Last week I went to Cairo to speak with the authorities about getting permission to build a new Church, but it so difficult and I have to be patient and wait for some more time.

For the moment, the people of Hagazah are praying the courtyard of a Coptic Catholic school.  This week, with my collaborators, we are raising a small tent to protect the faithful from the sun and wind.

I remember you always in my prayers.  Please remember me in yours.

Yours in our Lord,

Joannes Zakaria

Coptic Catholic Bishop of Luxor, Egypt

I think this episode illustrates why CNEWA does what it does in Egypt — and why it’s important for good folks to support our Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please do as the bishop asks and keep the Coptic Catholic community of Hagazah in your prayers.

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