Egyptian Chronicles 2


They opened their arms and hearts to us! The Egyptians' sense of hospitality and fraternity is very touching. Olivier Fleury, Founder of JC2033 and Marianne Roche, who recently joined the team, came back from Egypt very enthusiastic after a one-week stay at the beginning of December 2020.

Following the first trip in March 2019, ( ) an International Gathering had been planned for this year. But the Covid-19 pandemic has called everything into question! This short stay enabled us to meet again with key officials. 

Hospitality in the Risen One

An important moment was the audience granted by Pope Tawadros, Primate of the Coptic Orthodox Church. O. Fleury briefed him on the "Decade of the Resurrection" and the planned conference in Egypt. "He was so welcoming and full of many ideas; if he could have embraced us, he would have," said O. Fleury.  

Fr. Boulos Garas, a priest of the Coptic Catholic Church and Secretary of the Council of Churches of Egypt was present during this visit. The same day, he opened the door of Patriarch Ibrahim, of the Coptic Catholic Church, who received the delegation with great hospitality ... and in impeccable French (he was a priest in Fribourg)! "How well can we move forward  during this decade, living the Gospel, focusing on the Risen Christ, with the right people, together with the leaders and listening to the people of the Church", he asked.

"It was like a family meeting: brothers and sisters coming together", said O. Fleury, who invited Patriarch Ibrahim and Fr. Garas to the pilgrimage on the road to Emmaus organised by JC2033 ( ). However, as the other Catholic bishops were in council, during this week it was not possible to meet them.
Green light for a Conference in Egypt

The reunion with Andrea Zaki, Chairman of the Council of 18 Protestant Churches, and his team was also full of life. He gave his full support to the initiative for a conference in Egypt and the formation of a preparatory committee. One of the Council's directors, Michael El Daba, who is also responsible for the Lausanne Movement for the Middle East, was delegated to this project.

Later the visit to Pastor Refaat Fikry Saeed, Director of the Council for Ecumenical Relations and Dialogue of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, provided a better understanding of the context in Egypt, which is marked by  a  Muslim majority. He is a man of esteem and dialogue, very active in the media. 

The Anglican Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, we met in the afternoon is happy to see Olivier Fleury again and is looking forward to this conference. He will ask one of his collaborators to participate in the preparation group. The meeting ended  with prayer, a moment of grace much appreciated by this high-ranking official. 

Similarly, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Nikodemos agreed to delegate one of his bishops to help prepare the conference. He is delighted with this initiative for Christian unity, because, he laughed , "It is very difficult to do things between churches"!

On Sunday, O. Fleury  was  invited to preach in a Pentecostal church in a very popular district of Cairo. One of the communities under the supervision of Bishop Nasr Katkout. The latter reiterated his availability to be at the service of JC2033 for the organization of a conference: "Egypt with its 15 million Christians is a key country for the Middle East region", he said, also recommending not to forget the many Christian refugees in Egypt. 

In the evening, O. Fleury and M. Roche  were  invited to the home of their long-time friends Magdy and Anne-Lise Saber whose ministry is known in French-speaking Switzerland. They founded the Agape Centre in the desert of Wadi Natroun. The  next day they met the leaders of Youth with a Mission (Wilhem Niel) and Alpha courses (Samy Samir). Both put themselves at the service of all the Churches and are immediately won over by the initiative of JC2033 which calls Christians to gather around the Risen Christ. 

A  pleasant  evening at the home of Fr. Rafik Greiche, parish priest of the Greek-Catholic Church and Director of Communications for the Council of Churches in Egypt, brought together members of various movements. Young people showed their interest by asking several questions.

Mutual Friendship

A long friendship links us to Ramez Attalah, the director of the Bible Society and an active member of the Lausanne Movement (the author of this article has known him for 30 years through the Swiss Bible Society). Once again, he assures us that the Bible Society will be involved in the Decade of the Resurrection through the publication of biblical material. Currently it is collaborating in editing one million Bibles for the pastoral needs of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He strongly advises to present the approach of JC2033 to the United Bible Societies, in England. 

This intense week would not have been possible without the fraternal support of the Focolare community who opened many doors, organized travel, provided translations and prepared feasts. Sherin Helmy, Rima Saikali and Amany Saad, in particular, spared no effort. "We are now united by a great mutual friendship", says Marianne Roche with joy.

She adds: "We have seen God's favor in all situations and met motivated people with a beautiful diversity. For Egyptian Christians, Easter is the feast of feasts. Talking to them about unity around the Risen One touches their hearts. I understood better why God is opening a door in Egypt".

She was also touched by the fact that the father of Amany Saad's daughter-in-law, Emad Samy, received the initiative of JC2033 with enthusiasm. A member of the Evangelical Church, he now wants to put his large network at the service of the vision and to commit himself as an ambassador for JC2033. 


New date for the conference

These visits confirmed the fact that a conference in March 2021 is premature because of the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to circulate in Egypt, much more than what is said in official statistics and the media, according to our interlocutors. A visit to the leaders of the monastery of Anafora, in the Wadi Natroun desert, where the conference should be held, reinforced this observation. 

A new date will be set in agreement with our partners in Egypt. This will also allow us to invite leaders from other Middle Eastern countries. "If you want to go fast, go alone...but if you want to go far, go with others": this proverb is particularly relevant to the pilgrimage towards 2033 to which JC2033 invites Christians from all sides... 

"These few extraordinary days have filled me with gratitude; we have had confirmation that Egypt is indeed the key to the Middle East for JC2033", concludes Olivier Fleury. 

Martin Hoegger


PREVIOUS - Chronicles of Frankfurt