“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”—Psalm 133:1 (ESV)
As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, Egypt has seen a wide range of religions practised, including Christianity. However, Egyptian Christians are among those often targeted by religious radicals. Yet, through various agencies that The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) works alongside, such as the Bible Society of Egypt (BSE), we have seen how the Egyptian Christian community has been deeply impacted.
The fact that these ministries are growing so rapidly is a testament to the solidarity that Egyptian Christians have shown despite the well-documented struggles that they have regularly faced since the Egyptian revolution in 1952. As the largest religious minority in Egypt, Coptic Christians have borne the brunt of various forms of discrimination, such as laws restricting the building of churches and, in the 21st century, hate crimes committed by extremists. In one such example, on 9 April 2017, twin suicide bombings in two churches killed 45 people and injured 126. In the face of such persecution, the Egyptian Christian community rallied.
To strengthen our partnership with Egyptian Christians, BSS sent a team to Egypt in August 2017 to support mission works there. From Cairo, they headed to the province of Asyut, where the BSE, together with the local Coptic Christian church, organised the 'In His Image' event. In the face of widespread unrest, it was reasonable to expect a muffled response from Egyptian Christians. Instead, there was a multitude of people gathered in the public square, worshipping fervently.
Throughout the four-day event comprising a variety of activities—from theatrical plays to a Christian-themed talent show—the turnout gradually increased. Altogether, they had about 30,000 participants.
The team also gave out Bibles to event participants. It was evident how precious the Word of God was to the recipients; each of them kissed the Bible they received. As Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox Church emphasised, it is important for every Egyptian Christian to own a Bible as it "gives them the feeling of identity"—the knowledge that their identity is in Christ Himself. This is why the need to improve their Biblical knowledge is so great.
The team was moved by how the participants braved temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius just to attend the event, and how the Christian community remained faithful to God amidst the hostility that they face.
A major factor for this community's unity is the close bond formed between the BSE and the Coptic Church. As one of the team members reflected, "Community living strengthens their faith and unifies their identity as believers in times of persecution."
The team also visited the impoverished Garbage City in Cairo. Initially a community of unbelievers, it was through regular ministry that 90% of them (60,000) came to know the Lord. The team also visited Garbage City's Cave Church, the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Testimonies were given about how the founder of the Cave Church would minister to young people in the area, including a wealthy drug addict who gave up his vices and stayed clean for over 10 years after encountering Christ. This incredible opportunity would not have been possible without the support of our partners in Egypt.
I had a great time bonding and fellowship with the Egyptian kids. Even though there was a language barrier, our love for Jesus united us as one.
Looking at the bigger picture, BSS relies on partnerships with other agencies around the world, through which we better understand the needs of the various communities and how we can minister to them effectively. These agencies are not just supported by internal staff; donors help meet many of their needs. Last year, the BSE was blessed by donors such as Mrs Dorothy Chan and Mdm Anastasia Tjendri, who gave generously to support needy families in Egypt.
In today's modern context, we can further accelerate the spreading of the Word to the ends of the earth by building a larger support network, where Christians from all walks of life come together and work in tandem. BSS therefore invites you to support our work through donating, volunteering, and praying with us. Every partnership forged is precious as we work towards fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission!