News from Bishop Grant and Doctor Wendy

Jesus, the Prince of Peace

The phone rang. I looked at it apprehensively. The screen read, “Peter from Tongo.”
“Are you fine?”, Peter asked.
“Yes, we are fine,” I answered.
“You are all fine?” He sounded surprised. “There is war in Gambella!” read on

January Newsletter from Gambella, Ethiopia

After the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa, many previously segregated Bible Colleges and Universities had to rethink the manner in which they taught theology. No longer could they assume that every student had had equal educational opportunities or that they all learned in the same way. This realisation gave birth to a lot of research, creative thought, and bold experimentation as some of the best educators got together to find a solution to the emerging problem. For this reason, I was very interested to chat with a number of educators in South Africa and also in securing some of the articles and books written by Africans on the subject of oral versus literate preference styles of learning.

All of our students in Gambella could be considered higher on the oral scale than on the literate scale. This has a tremendous impact on how St Frumentius proceeds…how we structure the curriculum and how we teach…not that we wish to “dumb down” the material, but rather come up with new and creative ways of communicating in a way that is compatible with oral preference learners and that is culturally relevant. In the past, oral preference learners have had to struggle through literate preference methods only to find that they are no longer able to communicate clearly to their oral preference parishioners once they return to their respective places of ministry.

So the second semester of our first year may prove be one of the most interesting periods in our history as a College as we will be laying a foundation for future students using some of the best research on oral preference learners by Africans in Africa. Everyone in the Anglican Church in Ethiopia will be involved at some level as we will seek to learn more about what our students will need in order to be effective leaders in their respective communities.

On a more personal level, a routine cardiac check-up revealed that I need a surgical procedure known as an ablation. This procedure will correct a worsening condition called Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib for short. The choice is between this procedure or taking two meds that have some unpleasant side-effects. The cardiologist wanted me to have it done immediately as I am apparently a high stroke risk right now, but after much thought and prayer, we have decided to continue on the meds until 18 July when I will have the ablation done in Cape Town, South Africa. This will allow me to complete the second semester and to adequately prepare for the next year.

We will be going to the US in March/April for the New Wineskins Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Both Louise and I will be co-leading workshops with Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy LeMarquand. Prior to the Conference, we will be stopping in Greenville (probably Easter Weekend) and Charleston SC (the first weekend in April). We hope to be able to see as many of our ministry partners as possible during this time.

Please pray for us as we start the second semester next week. Pray for Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy as they continue to provide wise guidance for us all, for Louise as she continues to bring our library up to snuff, for Karen and Jeremiah as they teach, for Rosemary as she helps us all with the administration of the Area, for Roger and Lynn as they lead the congregation in Addis, and for all our priests, deacons, lay-leaders, and Mother’s Union leaders. Pray too for the visit from ACTEA (Association For Christian Theological Education in Africa) in February.

We appreciate you more than we can say…thank you for staying the course with us and for fighting the good fight by our side.

Many blessings.

Johann and Louise

Newsletter from Gambella, Ethiopia

Newsletter, November 2015

“I have never started a Theological College before,” Bishop Grant told the Area Assembly this past week, “but I have found that it is easy to do so.” A number of people chuckled as they saw my expression of incredulity. “ All you have to do,” he said, “ is find the right person to do it.” Everyone broke out into spontaneous applause and the Nuer delegates began to sing.

Kind words from our Bishop, but I am not so sure they are deserved. There have been many times when I have blundered on in the dark, trusting the Lord that He would lead me forward or fix my many mistakes along the way. All praise and honour and glory go to Him as He alone could do what has been done! Louise and I have simply been willing and ready servants.

This has been a wonderful month of learning and spiritual and physical restoration for both Louise and myself. We attended the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education consultation in Antalya, Turkey. There were 420 representatives from Theological Education Centres from 72 countries around the globe. Needless to say, we met many, many people and made many new friends and contacts. We also managed to sign up with Langham Literature, an organisation that helps College Libraries get the books they need for their students at affordable prices. Louise also attended two workshops on College Libraries that she enjoyed thoroughly. I met quite a few Deans and Principals of other Colleges and learned much from them. We also bought a number of books for the College – what a wonderful feeling to stand at a book table and buy books again!

After the consultation, Louise and I took a short break to rest before returning to Gambella. Thanks to Bishop Grant and Stewart Wicker of SAMS who made the break possible – and who insisted we take it!

We returned in time for the Annual Area Assembly, the dedication of the College Chapel, and the official opening of St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College. Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop Peter Tasker from the Diocese of Sydney, David Mansfield from Anglican Aid Australia, Luke Sherman, a videographer leant to us by the Tropical Health Alliance Foundation, as well as various representatives from other local denominations and organisations were present. Bishop Grant joked that while we were a bit early in dedicating the chapel as it is not yet complete, we were a bit late in opening the College as it has been functioning since August, so we are just right in our timing. It was a joy filled time for all. 236 clergy, lay-leaders, Mother’s Union, and church representatives attended. Please see my attached report from this Assembly below.

Our students received gifts of the Africa Bible Commentary as well as copies of Exploring Theological English made possible through the generous donation of a new friend to the College, Dr Larry. It was so moving watching them receive the books – some bent down and kissed the covers.

We said goodbye to most of our visitors this morning. Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy leave for Egypt this afternoon. They will be at the clergy gathering of the Diocese of Egypt and will meet our dear friends, Kerry and Cynthia Buttram who have just been appointed to the English Speaking Congregation at the Cathedral in Cairo.

Prayer Requests:

There is no water available in the whole of Gambella town. Our main water tank has been empty for a week now and all our rainwater tanks save one are empty as well. Please pray for rain – even though this is the dry season – and for the municipal water to be turned on again.

Pray for our students as they come to the end of their first semester. They still have papers and exams to write before the College closes for the December holidays.

We give thanks for all our ministry partners…you are a great source of comfort and encouragement to us. Seeing your names listed on our monthly donor reports from SAMS reminds us that we are not alone in this ministry. The Lord has raised up a great team for us and we are grateful.

Many blessings and tons of love.

Johann and Louise

 

 

 

SFATC Report: Annual Area Assembly 2015

Greetings to:

Our honoured guests, Archbishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop Peter Tasker, David Mansfield of Anglican Aid Australia, representatives of other denominations, mission societies, and organisations, local government officials, and other friends.

Area Bishop Grant LeMarquand, Dr Wendy LeMarquand, General Secretary Rosemary Burke, Office Manager Meaza Tefera, St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College Faculty, Anglican Centre staff, all Clergy and Delegates.

Special thanks to the translators.

Louise and I went to an ICETE consultation recently and one of the questions we were asked to consider was simply this: “What will the world be like when our students graduate in three years’ time?”

Unfortunately, this simple question does not have a single simple answer.

Things are changing so quickly all around us and so, as a Theological College, we have to ask ourselves, will we have prepared our students to deal with these changes and will they be equipped to help you, their people, understand the Gospel message in the midst of those changes? With the arrival of cell phones and the Internet – with things such as Face Book and You Tube a mere ‘click’ away – many of our people in the Gambella Region have been exposed in an instant to cultures and ideas and teachings and manners and behaviours very different to their own ancient and traditional ways.

If we at SFATC are not helping our students to think about these differences critically and to evaluate them in the light of the Scriptures, then we will have wasted their time, and our time, and we will not have served you, our community, well at all.

So, we have questions…and we will seek answers to these questions – and, no doubt, discover many new questions as we go along and as we learn from our students as much as they learn from us. But, God willing, when our students graduate in three year’s time, they will know the Lord well and they will know His Word well and they will know how to use what they have learned to serve the church and the society in general here in the Gambella Region.

As most of you already know, Louise and I arrived more than a year ago and we have spent that year asking many of these types of questions. After much thought, prayer, learning, and preparation (which included two intensive English Grammar and Reading Courses in the summer), we started SFATC in August this year with 13 full-time students (one of whom is from South Sudan, another is from the Lutheran Church) and 12 part-time students.

We also offer training for our lay leaders who struggle with the English language.

Unfortunately, one of our full-time students graduated from this life and went to be with the Lord he loves so much. We will always remember Ojulu for his desire to know His Lord and His Word better so that he could serve the church better.

Another full-time student could not cope with the financial pressures and decided to join our 12 part-time students instead, changing the numbers to 11 full-time and 13 part-time students. (Student introductions)

At present, we offer three programs: a Certificate in Theology, a Diploma in Ministry, and a Diploma in theology.

We have completed three classes so far this semester. Introduction to the Bible and Biblical Interpretation, Introduction to the Old Testament (I), and a course on Healing, Prayer, and Deliverance which was taught as two one-week intensives, with instructors from the UK, Ethiopia, the USA, and from Kenya. We still have three classes to be completed before the end of the first semester. African Traditional Religion, Theological English (I), and Biblical Theology (I), the last of which will be taught as a one-week intensive course. Our 13 part-time students join our 11 full-time students for the intensive courses.

God willing, along with our regular classes, we will offer two more intensives next semester, the first on Bible Story Telling and the second on African Church History.

We have four full-time faculty members. Karen Salmon, who teaches our Bible courses, is currently in Ireland doing all the paper work necessary for her to return to teach in Ethiopia. Karen also heads up our Servant Leadership Program in which our students learn to serve by doing various chores on and around Campus.

Jeremiah Maet Paul teaches African Traditional Religion and will be teaching on Islam and various other subjects in the future. Jeremiah is also the head of our Field Education Program in which students get the opportunity to work with some of our senior clergy in their churches. We have already had one very successful Field Education week and have received good reports about our students. I wish to thank all our clergy and church councils for their help in making this program successful. Without you this program would not be possible. Jeremiah also oversees the student Spiritual Development Program, in which he counsels our students, prayers with them, and teaches them wonderful new songs.

My wife, Louise, is our acting librarian and has catalogued more than 1,500 books by hand…she has 3,500 books to go. She has had some expert help in Barbara Hathaway and Muriel Teusink, for which we are grateful…and our students have been most helpful as well.

Along with the position of Dean/Principal, I teach Basic English Grammar as well as Theological English, in an attempt to help our students learn the kind of theological words and terms they will read and hear while studying the other courses. Another part of my position is to raise funds for student scholarships (with lots of help from Rosemary Burke), for buildings and furnishings, as well as for books both for our students and for our library.

Special thanks to all donors: Anglican Aid Australia, CMS Ireland, Crosslinks, IVP-UK, IVP-USA, Langham Literature, many individual donors and churches.

At the recent ICETE consultation, I was able to establish a few good contacts with individuals and groups such as Langham Literature, the Executive Director and the Executive Admin Assistant of the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa, various members of the Middle Eastern Association for Theological Education, and many others from all over the world who have and who will continue to help us in the future, whether through the provision of books, scholarships, advice, or other forms of valuable assistance. So, please do pray that the Lord will continue to lead us to those who will be willing to invest in the great work the Lord is doing here in Gambella.

We are especially grateful and honoured to have Bishop Grant LeMarquand serve as part-time faculty and as advisor and mentor to us all. Bishop Grant will be teaching an intensive course on biblical Theology in December.

We will be taking in a new group of 1st year students next year, so if you believe the Lord is calling you to enter into Christian ministry you need to pray about it, talk to your pastor or church council, and then talk to me as soon as possible. We would like for you to be recommended to us by your pastor and/or your church community. Then, you will need to pass an English entrance exam before taking the English Grammar Course in the summer. After that, the Academic Committee will interview and evaluate those who pass the English exams before any will be admitted into the College as students. We do want to make sure that those who come are called by the Lord and are serious in wanting to serve Him and His Church.

Of course, we are open to taking in students from other Christian denominations as well as other countries, but scholarships are limited to those who are Ethiopian Anglicans.

As always, we welcome your input as the church community at any time. It is encouraging to hear good reports from churches where our students serve. Please pray for us as we seek to equip those who will be your leaders in the future. Thank you.

 

The Rev Dr Johannes W H van der Bijl

Dean/Principal of St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College

Gambella, Ethiopia

Spring Diocese Newsletter

Dear Friends,

In the Middle East, Africa, and much of the non-Western world, extending honour is among the chief virtues. Our Anglican Communion is blessed to have a leader who embodies not only this cultural value, but also its Biblical roots.

“Without doubt, the lesser person is blessed by the greater,” writes the author of Hebrews. “Honour one another above yourselves,” writes Paul in Romans. On April 20, our diocese of Egypt was blessed by the visit of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He came to offer condolences over the martyrdom of 21 Christians killed by ISIS in Libya. But in humility, as a man of the West visiting the East, he proved the reality of these verses in his life and leadership.

In attendance were Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos and Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonius Aziz, themselves men of humble service there to honour his visit. Aware the representatives of these churches could not share in an Anglican Eucharist, the archbishop desired to demonstrate his appreciation for their churches in a land whose children produced such a testimony of faith.

Archbishop Welby left the communion table, knelt before the two bishops, and asked them to pray a blessing for him. Immediately moved in spirit, they knelt as well, and asked the same of him. He then returned and offered body and blood to God’s holy church. Both privately expressed how they were touched by his gesture.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” said Jesus to his disciples. “Those who honour me,” said God in I Samuel, “I will honour.” Following communion, Archbishop Welby joined me in demonstrating this call and promise of God.

For the past seven years, Rev. Drew Schmotzer has worked tirelessly not only as my personal assistant, but also in assuming vacant pastoral positions in Maadi, Menouf, and at All Saints Cathedral. He is now leaving the diocese to return to the United States. Archbishop Welby’s visit was Rev. Drew’s last day in Egypt. During the service, we were able to honour Rev. Drew’s humble service to the Diocese of Egypt. I presented him with the shield of the diocese in gratitude for his ministry.

“God is not unjust,” it is written in Hebrews, “he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people.” The virtue of honour is one the Eastern Church can share with the Western. Our Anglican Communion is blessed to have so many from all cultures who, in humility, exhibit it already.

May the Lord bless you.

+Mouneer

 

Goodbye to Rev. Drew Schmotzer

_MAH4734-Edit 2On the 19th of April, during the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, we said goodbye to Rev. Drew Schmotzer. It was not easy to see him leave after seven years of being part of the diocesan family. During this time Rev. Drew helped me as my chaplain. He was a God-sent helper at a time when I needed support in my office. He was a real servant not only to me but to everyone in the diocese. He helped as an interim rector of St. John the Baptist, Maadi, and Priest-in-charge of the English-speaking congregation of All Saints Cathedral. However, the time came for Rev. Drew to move on to continue his ministry in another place. I am so grateful to Rev. Drew whom I consider as my son.

Bishop Bill’s Early Retirement

10346187_922550914435971_2855788262238523320_nBishop Bill Musk will retire in October this year.  It was a great joy and privilege to work with Bishop Bill and Hilary Musk. They are wonderful encouragements to me and all my colleagues in the Diocese. Bill taught me the real meaning of grace and humility.  It is difficult to forget the times when he prayed for me over the phone, especially at the time when I felt very lonely. Bill is a very gifted leader and bishop for the church in North Africa. He build a wonderful team and cared well for every member of it. I believe that Bishop Bill Musk is one of the leading experts on Islam and we in the Anglican Communion can learn a lot from Him. Bill and Hilary will be greatly missed by all of us in the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

 

2015 Summer Conferences

This summer, we will hold one evangelistic conference, and will invite young people who are unchurched. Some of those young people have  lost interest in church. There will be two other conferences, one for the university students and one for the teenagers, from the 2-6 of July at the North coast near Alexandria. Arabic speaking young people from Tunisia and Algeria will join. We expect a total of 200 young people to attend.  Please pray that these conferences would be a real blessing and transformative!

 

Latest News

Egypt

North Africa

Horn of Africa

January & February Diocese Newsletter

They can break my body
They can break my pride
They can cut my head off
And post it up online
But when the morning breaks
It’s Jesus I will see
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
Dear Friends,

I was moved by the words above, written by Rev. John Young, a Scottish pastor. He wrote them in a song inspired by the last words of one of the Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya last month. Before one of the young men was killed, he said, ya Rabbi Yesua, “oh, my Lord Jesus.”

It is difficult to imagine such brutal persecution facing Christians in the twenty-first century. However, it is not surprising. Before going to the cross, Christ warned his disciples in John 16: “they will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” This is exactly what happened in Libya.

It is both moving and encouraging to us, Egyptians and Christians, to know that these young men were ready to give their lives rather than denounce their saviour, Jesus Christ. These men, and those who have been killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, have demonstrated great faith. Their testimony and the testimonies of their families have been powerful. The families of the Coptic Christians killed in Libya have consistently spoken about love and forgiveness for those who killed their sons.

In response to the events in Libya, the Egyptian government has decided to build a new church in Minya, the hometown of the martyrs killed in Libya, and dedicate it to their memory.

We lift up their families and communities and the whole of the church in the Middle East in prayer, and remember their model of faithfulness to Christ, captured in the words of Rev. Young. I would like to close with the final verse of “Ya Rabbi Yesua:”

They’re asking me to say
My faith is just a lie
They tell me ‘turn away
And I won’t have to die’
But how can I abandon
The one who wouldn’t abandon me
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
May the Lord bless you.
+Mouneer
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A New Spirit for a New Year: Diocese Newsletter (November & December 2014)

Dear Friends,

As I was preparing for the All Saints Cathedral Christmas Eve Service, I received a gift—a box of candies from a neighbor. The neighbor, a Muslim, had sent a box of “halawet el mouled,” sweets traditionally given on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed, which falls close to Christmas this year. The next day, my neighbor came in person to wish me a Merry Christmas.

The Christmas services of the Cathedral are attended by a number of representatives from various government agencies and other religious groups. On Christmas Eve, we welcomed a representative from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his cabinet, a representative from Pope Tawadrous II of the Coptic Orthodox Church and from the Grand Imam. The Governor of Cairo and the Minister of Local Development attended personally. This year, though, the imam of the local mosque, just one blocks away, sent a request. He, too, wanted to wish the church Merry Christmas.

On Christmas Day, the imam and eleven worshipers from the mosque came to the offices of the diocese. The group stated that it is important to recover the spirit of unity that characterized centuries of Muslim-Christian relationships in Egypt, which has long been a religiously diverse society. “We must put our hands together for the future of our beloved country, Egypt,” one of the visitors said. I responded by saying that when I hear the call for prayer, Allahu Akbar, “God is great,” I am reminded of two things: I am challenged to pray regularly, and I remember that God is great. Christians, too, believe that Allahu Akbar. And if we all believe that God is great, we can let God be God, and refrain from judging others. The imam left me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and an invitation to visit them at the mosque.

Later that evening, when I went to celebrate Christmas at St. Mark’s Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria, I encountered a group of fifteen Muslim young people who attended the service in order to share the joy of Christmas with their Christian friends. Over the next several days, I saw Christians and Muslims posting greetings and well wishes to each other on facebook, accompanied by images of Muslims and Christians holding hands, Christmas trees, and “halawet el mouled.” You can see these images below– a young man whose two sides represent both faiths, and a bride made of traditional holiday candies.

On January 3rd, the birthday of prophet Muhammad, the Cathedral clergies and I went to the mosque to return the imam’s holiday visit. The worshipers told us it was the first visit ever made by clergy to the mosque. We talked about the importance of religious harmony in Egypt. Our Episcopal Church in Giza also offered greetings to the mosque across the street, giving “halawet el mouled” to worshipers exiting the building. Both of these events were covered in local newspapers.

In the media, we often hear only the stories of clashes between religious groups, violence done to one another, tensions that erupt into aggression. But we also experience stories of grace, friendship, and kindness. Following many tumultuous years, I am encouraged to see so many signs of a new spirit among Muslims and Christians in Cairo, and throughout Egypt. As we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, I invite you to pray with me for peace in the Middle East, remembering that God is great, and He is with us.

May the Lord bless you!

+Mouneer

IMG_6846453017815IMG_20875949785727

 

November/December News

Egypt

North Africa

Horn of Africa

Diocese Newsletter (September and October 2014)

My dear friends,

At All Saints Day celebration at All Saints Cathedral , I shared the story of Temple Gairdner, a British missionary who was one of  the founders of the Arabic Anglican Church in Egypt. His life is a model for us today, both in terms of faithfulness to God and engagement with our Muslim neighbours.

Temple Gairdner experienced the ‘overwhelming embrace of Christ’ as a student at Trinity College Oxford in 1893. The experience gave birth to a new passion for service and witness, and Gairdner began preparing for missionary service. He mastered Arabic in six months and received an assignment to Cairo to work alongside Douglas Thornton “among students and other educated classes of Muslims.” The two men, and later their wives, shared a home with one another, and welcomed anyone willing to converse about Christ.

Thornton and Gairdner were not always welcomed by those they tried to befriend, but the two men continued to hold salon-style conversations, to offer tea and coffee, and to respond to questions. They were continually seeking new ways to connect with Egyptians, and in 1905, started a magazine called Orient and Occident, which was distributed in fourteen Arab countries as a forum for dialogue about issues of faith.

The salon conversations and magazine were effective in connecting with educated Muslims, but Gairdner recognized that the word of God was for all people. He wrote Bible plays to share stories with illiterate Egyptians, as well as songs and hymns that are still sung by the Arabic-speaking church today. One of the most famous hymns, “Ehfaz Hayaty,” “Lord, Keep My Life Consecrated to You,” was sung at my ordination as Bishop. Gairdner realised the urgent need to start an Egyptian Anglican congregation and committed himself to develop Egyptian leaders. Today we harvest what he saw. The congregation he started is now fifteen churches all over Egypt.

Many years after Temple Gairdner, the Anglican Church in Egypt is seeking to follow Jesus and to love our Muslim neighbours. The Imam-Priest Exchange project builds relationships between Christian and Muslim religious leaders. We are partnering with an Islamic charity, Masr el-Kheir, to reach out to those who need Primary Health Care in the villages. Our community centres serve majority Muslim neighbourhoods. As Temple Gairdner did, we try to demonstrate the love of Christ in a language all can understand.

 

September-October News:

Egypt

North Africa

Horn of Africa

Other

August Diocese Newsletter

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” Isaiah 43: 19

Dear friends,

Last week we heard about terrorist attacks which targeted the army and the police in Egypt. These attacks occur from time to time since the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

Also last week, millions of Egyptians queued in the banks to deposit whatever they had in order to participate with the Egyptian government in fulfilling a new project in Egypt to establish a new canal parallel to Suez Canal. This was the response of the Egyptian people to the call made by President Al-Sisi to participate in this “project of the country.”

The new canal project will cost around 60 billion Egyptian pounds, but it will improve the economy and create many job opportunities. People bought shares in this project according to their ability from as low as 10 Egyptian pounds to several thousand pounds. The surprise was that the people paid more than the 60 billion pounds needed for the project.

This was an amazing response from the Egyptian people who did not allow fear from terrorism to hinder their hope in the future of Egypt. I see the millions who crowded at the banks as another referendum in support of the current government. It is a new spirit and a new hope.

I hope the similar new spirit may spread in the church of the Middle East. We need such a new hope while we are facing many challenges such as the immigration of youth and violence against Christians.

We can have such new hope when we hold on to God’s promise “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43 : 19)

Let us lay aside every fear, wrong and weight which can hinder us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

May the Lord Bless you!

Egypt

North Africa

Horn of Africa

May – July Diocese Newsletter

My dear friends,

The Middle East is groaning. You hear about what is happening in Iraq and the many Christians who are being forced to leave their homes and also those who were killed by ISIS (Daash). Over 1,500 have been killed in Gaza and 8,000 were injured in the recent days because of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Syria is suffering greatly, and we are receiving many Syrian refugees here in Egypt. Libya is struggling with tribal wars and conflicts, and Christ the King Anglican Church in Tripoli is in the midst of this. South Sudan is torn again by fighting and hundreds of thousands are fleeing to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia. Here in Egypt, every other day we hear about a violent and terrorist attack, especially in the Sinai where military and police officers are targeted. What a region, full of flames and blood.

In the midst of all this, many people are saying “Where are you, God? Why are you allowing this to happen to your people?” It reminds me with the cries of King David in Psalm 77 when he said, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” We find the answer to all these questions in the same Psalm, “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Indeed, we need to think of how God was faithful to his church in this region in the last 2,000 years. Just as the blood of the martyrs became the seeds of many churches throughout this region, we trust that this current turmoil will turn into something good. We don’t understand now, but one day we or the next generation will.

We don’t have any way to heal the situation, except by prayer. One of the good outcomes of this very difficult time for Christians in the Middle East is that last week all churches in Egypt gathered together in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to pray. This was a very special time and we felt united in Christ through prayer. We prayed for our fellow Christians and Muslims throughout the region, and we remembered what King Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20: “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” We also remembered the words of St. Peter “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4).

Do pray for peace in our region and grace for us.

+Mouneer

 

LATEST NEWS

Horn of Africa

St. Frumentius’ College to open in January 2015
New Churches Built in Gambella
Raise the Roof! Putting a roof on the Gambella Anglican Centre Church
Preventing Child Mortality in Gambella
“When Two Elephants Fight, the Grass Suffers”

North Africa

Outreach Conference in Algiers
Farewell to Rev. Gus and Marliese from Tripoli

Egypt

AST Graduation with Bishop N.T. Wright
One Muslim, One Anglican, One Goal: Peace
Renewal of the Episcopal Publishing House
Opening of the Arkan Centre in Alexandria
Prison Ministry Update
Refuge Egypt’s Annual Report
Syrian Ministry Update

‘At Such a Time as This’ – April Diocese newsletter

Dear friends,

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:13-16)

I believe that God has a plan for our lives as individuals and as nations, and He calls us to play our role in His divine plan.  In the same way, Jesus commanded his disciples to continue his great commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

At this time in history, our beloved country Egypt is going through a very delicate and critical stage, a stage that will influence the future of Egypt for decades to come.  Right now we are struggling to build a modern and democratic Egypt, yet at the same time we continue to face violence and terrorism resulting from the reaction to the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood whose rule of Egypt ended on 3 July 2013.  We have finished a new constitution and now we are very close to the Presidential elections at the end of May, which will be followed by Parliamentary elections.

The question now facing us is:  Does the Church (i.e. the Christian community) have a role in shaping the modern Egypt?  I believe that the answer is YES.  God has allowed us to be here at such a time like this in order to fulfill our role in shaping the modern Egypt—a beautiful Egypt in which there is no exclusion or fanaticism, an Egypt that values freedom and democracy.

It is disappointing, however, to see some who are hesitant to play a positive role in shaping our beloved country, and who do not want to participate in the coming elections as they think that the outcome of the elections has already been determined. On the contrary, I encourage all to be positive and vote, especially if we are to practice real democracy.

I would like to ask the Christian community what benefit is there if we continue to isolate ourselves from the society in which we live, as we have done in the last several decades?  I think that such isolation came as a result of our marginalization by those who were in authority, but now, there are many who look forward for the contribution of the Christians in all parts of life within Egypt.   This is not just our right, but it is our duty, as light and salt in our society.

Please pray for all Egyptians and for the Christian community in Egypt to regain its prophetic voice at such a time like this.

May the Lord bless you!

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

 

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