“Pharaohs, the Greeks, Bedouins, Christians and Muslims. . . The Egypt of today is a synthesis of these cultures that have all brought something to the unique personality of the Egyptians, with its beauty, originality and, also, contradictions.” Sally, a young woman from Cairo, presented a brief overview of the religious and cultural history of this fascinating land.
It was Friday afternoon, which is holiday for the majority of Egyptians which is Muslim. The gathering took place in the large Jesuit College close to the central railway station and not far from Tahrir Square.
The special guests entered into a darkened hall. It was like entering into the inner chamber of an ancient pyramid surrounded by supernatural mystery. The three hundred and fifty people who had gathered were welcomed amid bursting enthusiasm as the lights were turned on. It appeared a true phantasmagoria of colour and sound, expressing the great joy.
Shortly before, a group of children had handed to Maria Voce the Key of Ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life and immortality. With this same key, Sally offered an hour-long presentation of the history of this people and its society that arose along the banks of the Nile, until the Tahrir Square and the Arab Revolution, which has left the country with a new situation to be faced.
The history of the Focolare Movement is also inserted into the history of this ancient country. It first appeared with the arrival of Aletta Salizzoni, Mariba Zimmermann and Marise Atallah on the 26 January 1981. This moment was the beginning of a change in the lives of many people within the Christian community, producing in this land the birth of many groups of people who spend their lives in the building of communities in which mutual love is practiced and where Christ can be present.
The spirituality of unity has now spread to Sohag, Luxor, Aswan, Alessandria, Ismailia and other cities, even into the smallest villages. Representatives from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq were also in attendance. There were groups from all over the country, who had gathered in Egypt to share with the president and co-president the latest pages of their country’s history beginning with the “revolution” as everyone calls it here. During that week, Sally recalls, “it was difficult to leave the house, there was not security and we were planted in the present moment. We prayed more and tried to help others. This resulted in deeper relationships with our neighbours and among Christians and Muslims. Our fear had been transformed into mutual love and joyous communion. We could feel the unity of our great family.”
To conclude there were a few pieces of folkore, bright colours, bright like the faces that appeared on stage. This was followed later in the day by meetings with the children, youths, and families where there were open and sincere discussions. Tomorrow there will be more discussion with Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti.
By Roberto Catalano