Catholics in Egypt: We will not leave this country because we have a mission

“Where there are more Christians, there is more freedom of thought, more democracy and a greater spirit of community.”

These two men work so that Christians in the Middle East do not disappear. They do this first by their presence in the region, and second by their work to strengthen the faith of those who remain in the cradle of Christianity.

Fr. Guillaume and Said belong to the Neocatechumenal Way. This French priest is the rector of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Lebanon, a center where future priests are trained particularly to stay in the Middle East.

FR. GUILLAUME BRUTÉ DE RÉMUR
Rector, Seminary Redemptoris Mater, Lebanon
“There is a massive Christian migration abroad, even in areas where they are not directly persecuted, and therefore there is a risk that this faith will gradually become less profound. If it only remains in cultural customs, they will lose the very reason to stay in the Middle East. That is why I believe, and this is a part of our mission as a seminary, that it is not enought to give economic aid, political or sociological aid, spiritual aid is also necessary, so that these people can find again the spiritual meaning of their mission and their presence in the Middle East.”

Because Egypt is where the Holy Family escaped to save the Messiah from Herod. Jordan is the place from where Moses saw the Promised Land and where Christ was baptized. Jesus was born in the Holy Land and developed his preaching there, reaching as far as Lebanon, the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Syria was evangelized by Thomas, the apostle and in Iraq we find Ur of Chaldees, the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham.

FR. GUILLAUME BRUTÉ DE RÉMUR
Rector, Seminary Redemptoris Mater, Lebanon
“These roots, this heritage if it is not lived, if it is not cared for by people for whom it means something, runs the risk of becoming something to fill up museums and that disappears little by little, of being forgotten. History and today’s events tell us that where there are more Christians there is more freedom of conscience, more democracy and a greater spirit of coexistence. It is like a natural antibody to fanaticism. That’s why I think we have to help these Christians to stay in their countries.”

The priest not only helps them stay, but also to form stronger communities. In Egypt, the challenge is also the unity among Copts, Catholics and Orthodox. A fundamental step forward on this path was the visit of Pope Francis in 2017 and his meeting with Pope Tawadros II. Both prayed for the persecuted Christians a few days after the Palm Sunday attacks in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

Despite the violence, Christians like Said, pioneer of the Neocatechumenal Way in Egypt, say they will remain in their land because they are called to fulfill a mission there.

SAID AZER
Copto-Catholic Egypt
“We stay because we have a greater mission. Christ has suffered for all Humanity and if we have to suffer for Christ and the Church, we are no more than our Lord. We have this sense within us that we have a mission to fulfill in the land where we were born, so we stay in Egypt.”

The Coptic Christians are one of the oldest communities in the Middle East. It is believed that it was St. Mark who evangelized that land in the first century. They are also the largest Christian community so any attack on them decisively affects the morale of all communities in the region.