Category Archives: Coptic Church

The Libya Martyrs’ Children: An Update on the Difference You’re Making

The 21 martyrs of Libya. Icon written by Tony Rezk.
The 21 martyrs of Libya. Icon written by Tony Rezk.

I’m writing to update you on Coptic Orphans’ support for the children of the 21 martyrs in Libya.

This story actually begins 16 years ago, when we met with H.G. Bishop Pevnotios. Most of the Libya martyrs’ children weren’t even alive then. But today, you will find nearly all of them in His Grace’s diocese in Samalout.

That day 16 years ago, by God’s grace and with your partnership, a seed was planted. His Grace agreed that we would work in his diocese, and he recommended Church-based volunteers to serve as Coptic Orphans Reps.

The Reps worked hard and enrolled more kids. And so, over these past 16 years, we’ve served 1,095 children in Samalout.

Which brings us to today. We have 23 Reps in His Grace’s diocese. Each has relationships of love and mentorship with the orphans who are “their” kids. In regular face-to-face visits, they nurture the kids’ character and talents — and above all, their education.

These Reps know Samalout, they’re trained as a team, and they know that people like you are behind them with support and prayers. Their 16 years of service are just the beginning.

Promoting literacy and love of reading at a Coptic Orphans event in Samalout.
Promoting literacy and a love of reading at a Coptic Orphans event in Samalout.

In other words, the seed that was planted 16 years ago, with God’s help, has grown into a tree with branches strong enough to support the Libya martyrs’ children.

With this strong structure in place, we were able to begin investigating the kids’ needs immediately after the massacre. We learned that 10 of the martyrs had left behind a total of 19 children. Of the 19, two live in Mattay and 17 in Samalout. We decided to focus our energies on Samalout, where our strengths and nearly all the kids are.

We spent a lot of time carefully looking at the children and their situations. And because we’re committed to accountability and transparency, I’m reporting what we’ve learned to you.

We discovered that all of the families, by God’s grace, are benefitting from great generosity. Churches, businesspeople, individuals, and other services have supplemented strong support from the Egyptian government. These families now actually have a lot of resources, especially in the short term, even divided among many family members, that will help meet their day-to-day needs. Much of what has been donated from these sources must be shared among the deceased’s wife, his children, his parents, and his unmarried siblings.

We’re grateful that God touched the hearts of so many people and made this outpouring possible. We also know that these children’s needs will continue — and even grow — in the 4, 8, even 10 or more years before they reach adulthood.

That knowledge forced us to do some soul-searching. You, the Coptic Orphans family, decided to sustain the martyrs’ children by donating US$91,902. For a child who is in our program for a normal amount of time, for example, about 8 years, that’s US$676 a year — not a huge amount, but very significant, for Egypt. And clearly these kids are a special case. We couldn’t have anticipated it, but now they’re not “low income” — a prerequisite for being in our program.

We’d committed to standing with these children. But what did they need us for now, with all this money? We studied, discussed, argued, and decided on enrolling them in our program anyway.

To explain why, I need to tell you about a rich woman who approached us, years ago. She was taking care of her two orphaned nephews. She gave them everything, but something was wrong. Compared to other orphans in her area — kids in our program — her nephews were troubled and undisciplined.

She came to us and said, “I want you to enroll my nephews in your program. You don’t have to spend anything on them; I’ll pay for everything. I just want them to have what the other kids in your program are getting. I want them to have the love, the guidance, so they grow up to be healthy people.”

We’ve heard this before, and it echoes what we believe the Coptic Orphans family is really about. Meeting basic needs should be a given. With your partnership, we do that.

But what’s really valuable — and transforming — is the Reps’ work to mentor the child, promote their self-discipline and resilience, instill a strong work ethic, and support their education. That’s real long-term development, not charity.

Therefore, there is a long road ahead with the martyrs’ children in Samalout. Our Reps will give each one the love and mentoring they need. Their families will also receive the wider support we offer to all of the program’s families, such as workshops to help widows manage their finances, and to empower them to support their children. But in terms of your donations, we’ll focus on what we do best: Education.

How that looks will depend on each child. But all of them will need the tutoring that Egypt’s decaying school system has made indispensable. All will need constant guidance that education, not a pension, is the road to independence. Some will advance to university, and we’ll support them by paying tuition and fees.

We’ll only know the final results of these efforts when these children grow up. The seed planted 16 years ago, in the meeting with H.G. Bishop Pevnotios, is still growing.

But however this turns out, the Coptic Orphans family will have done everything possible to make sure that the children of the Libya martyrs are loved, supported, mentored, and educated.  Thank you for partnering with us, with God at the center.

Related Posts:

What Could We Have Done to Save the 21? A Lot More
Act Now to Prevent More Massacres
The Copts Martyred in Libya – How You Can Help
Remembering the Children Who Lost Their Fathers in Libya
Charleston and Samalout: The Connection That Surprises the World

You Won’t Believe What This Baby Is Doing for Egypt

Fady Cropped
Meet Fady. He’s going to be baptized soon.

I just arrived in Egypt. Not long after my plane touched down, I received an email with this quote:

“Coptic Orphans has always been near and dear to our hearts. We admire the work of Coptic Orphans and in our small way, we look for opportunities to partake in this blessing. We want to raise our children with a spirit of giving. While Fady is still too young to have any idea what’s happening, we hope that in the future we can show him by example what a blessing it is to give others. We chose to give a donation in lieu of a favor for our son’s baptism because we think it’s a great opportunity to introduce a wonderful cause to our guests and we simply love the work of Coptic Orphans.”

I love what this says about the people who have Egypt and the children in their heart. We all like to think our children will have the best things in life: a great education, a happy career, a wonderful family. I can tell that Fady’s parents want all of those things for him. And more — enormous, important things that are at the heart of our Coptic life: a love for his sisters and brothers in Christ, compassion for those in need, and generosity.

It makes a huge difference when people act in this way, choosing to support Egypt’s families out of the bounty God has given them. Choices like this have allowed us to serve and empower 30,000 children, making sure they are better housed, fed, educated, and above all treated with love and respect.

It’s incredible, and… well, I don’t know what else to say, except a huge “thank you” to Fady and his parents. I promise we’ll do our best to see that every child we can reach in Egypt has the kind of love you’re giving to your own child.


PS I changed Fady’s name to protect his privacy (it’s too early for him to become a celebrity). His photo and the quote are used with permission from his family, of course.

Bishop Samuel: How His Legacy Will Shape Your Life in 2015

Bishop Samuel Church

One of my heroes is H.G. Bishop Samuel, who departed from this earth in 1981 after a lifetime of great accomplishments for the Coptic Church in Egypt and around the world.

Did his story end in 1981? Far from it; you and I will spend 2015 benefiting from his foresight and hard work. Today, I’d like to offer a reminder of Bishop Samuel’s achievements, and suggest one way we can keep his legacy strong.

First and foremost, Bishop Samuel helped lead the Sunday School movement that revitalized the Church in Egypt.  I’m sure you’d agree that in 2015, the energy and vision of that movement is still felt powerfully in our congregations, in our homes, in our spiritual lives.

I’m fond of saying we should all try to make a difference in the world. How did Bishop Samuel make such a huge difference?

Born in 1920 as Saad Aziz, he forsook his law career and was consecrated in 1944 to serve the underprivileged and poor.

In 1948, he became a monk with the name Fr. Makary El Suriany. In doing so, he became the first university graduate to choose the monastic life, inspiring many others to follow in the Coptic revival of monasticism.

In 1954, his participation in the second general Assembly of the World Council of Churches helped end the 1,500-year isolation of the Coptic Church that began with the Council of Chalcedon. As a World Council of Churches leader, he brought millions of dollars to projects that enriched lives in Egypt.

He was the secretary of Pope Kyrollos VI, and his 1962 ordination as “General Bishop of Social and Ecumenical Services” made him the first head of a new bishopric with no geographical boundaries.

He established the Diakonia Program to serve areas without priests, and he set up services for the needy nationwide called “The Brothers of the Lord.” Instead of giving handouts, he created programs that trained people to be self-sufficient. His ideas in this field continue to influence how we think about what is possible when we approach “charity” work. Here at Coptic Orphans, we owe a debt of gratitude to Bishop Samuel for pioneering ideas that underpin our mission of transforming generations by empowering the fatherless.

But Bishop Samuel’s influence went even farther, and continues to 2015. We in the Coptic diaspora lead lives that are especially molded by Bishop Samuel’s hard work. In the 1960s, he set up U.S. Coptic centers that were the seeds of future Coptic churches. With the blessing of Pope Kyrollos VI, Bishop Samuel pioneered the establishment of the first churches in North America, Australia, and Europe. Can you imagine how different your life would be if those churches had not been set up and taken root?

It befits the memory of this great man—a pioneer, a visionary, and a warrior for Christ—to establish a fund in his name that helps people in Egypt who face poverty to achieve dignity and self-sufficiency for years to come.

I’d like you to know that you can help carry on Bishop Samuel’s legacy. The Bishop Samuel Endowment will use your donation to ensure that this great Church leader’s vision lives on. Your generous gift, which you can make by clicking here, will support university scholarships for students who show leadership and commitment to Egypt and the Church.

I think it’s important to close any discussion of Bishop Samuel’s achievements with the observation that he was deeply humble. He considered himself a mere servant of God and the people, fulfilling the Biblical verses, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; ….” (Matt. 25:35, 36)

I’m grateful that H.G. Bishop Samuel left behind such a strong legacy for all of us, and I pray that we will all show his courage and commitment in 2015 and beyond.