Washington Post on Copts in Egypt and America

The Washington Post published an article on the Coptic Christian community  in America and their involvement in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution this week. The article by Pamela Constable–who got to know the Coptic community after returning to the US after years in Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran–highlights those who are travelling back to Egypt to make a difference. Among others, the Washington Post consulted Coptic Orphans executive director Nermien Riad, who tweeted one Egypt Serve to Learn volunteer’s comment on instability in Egypt earlier this summer.

Tracy A. Woodward / THE WASHINGTON POST

The article quoted Nermien Riad as saying: “There is more violence, but there is also more hope. There is a huge opportunity for us, and the revolution has already done half the work.”

What work is that?

In a previous post I wrote that

 Under the Mubarak regime, the general attitude that Coptic Orphans volunteers encountered in their home visits was something like, “nothing will ever change, and nothing I can do would make anything change.” This attitude extended to nearly every sphere of life: not just the political, but also about challenging harmful village norms, the possibility of education, and even providing basic needs for one’s children. Now, even widows who—in accordance with Egyptian cultural norms and social expectations—have hardly set foot outside their homes since the death of their husbands 20 years ago are emerging from their social quarantine to vote. The revolution has awakened an awareness of the possible for even the rural poor in Egypt, and those like the widow and orphaned-fatherless who are on the margins of civic and social access. Through its 350-plus volunteers, Coptic Orphans already reaches into the remotest areas of nearly every area of Egypt, eager to present positive possibilities for the widow and the fatherless to grasp and transform into reality. Now, the rains of the revolution have suddenly produced soft and ready soil in the hearts of those whom Coptic Orphans reaches.

The work that the Egyptian revolution has already done is open up a sense of hope.

In his comprehensive look at poverty and development from a Christian perspective, Walking with the Poor, Bryant Myers says that hoplessness rooted in a marred sense of identity is “the deeper, more insidious cause of poverty” (84-85)

Coptic Orphans worked without regard to the restrictions of the Mubarak regime. But one restriction we always sought to overcome was hoplelessness among the poor.

And after the revolution hope is awakening in Egyptian villages. We’ve seen it in the children and mothers who brought patriotism and questions about democracy into recent workshops. We also see it extend into attitudes about non-political areas of life when we make home visits among Egypt’s orphaned households.

Despite all the serious dangers and obstacles ahead, that may become a powerful change, and a great opportunity for us outside of Egypt. Small contributions make a big impact among a hopeful people, whether we give or go.

So what do you think? What does Egypt’s future look like from here? Did the Washington Post do it justice?

About Nathan Hollenbeck

Nathan joined Coptic Orphans in 2006. It was his response to a call to help return Egypt’s hospitality to the Holy Family on behalf of Christ Emmanuel and the Theotokos, after they changed his own life as a youth. He has a passion to fulfill God’s command to “bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17, ESV)