Oct. 23. Greetings again from Cairo, Egypt. I want to say more about the Master's degree program here at the seminary. In particular, I wish to tell you more about the themes of the papers which the students write as part of earning a degree. Four second year students pictured earlier will spend the spring term of 2008 on this work. But first, a picture to introduce all of this. When Dr. Robert Smith who directs the ELCA effort in the Middle East visited here last month, we went the ancient section of Cairo, where this ruin of a Roman fortress and several early churches and a synagogue are located. Robert and the missionaries of the ELCA here in Cairo talked about our responsibility to "accompany" the peoples of this place and be prepared to learn from them as well as to share what we can with them.
....The first student, Sungmin, will write about the disappearance of the Nubian Christian church, following the conquest of Egypt and the destruction of this Roman fortess by the Muslims in the 7th century a.d. She will be using unpublished sources in an attempt to determine why this Christian community did not survive when others did.
....The second student, Nashat, will research the development of a Protestant Christian translation of the Bible into Arabic, which was done in the 19th century, and its adequacy for the mission of the church today. One of the ramification of the Arab conquest of this region was the gradual replacement of languages like Coptic in everyday life, and so if Christians wish to witness, it is in the common language of people in this part of the world.
....A third student, Magdy, will tell us about the impact of Protestant Christian missionaries who introduced programs of adult education and Sunday schools to the established Orthodox churches of this region. Part of the missionary effort from the United States and Europe beginning in the 19th century was to work within these established Christian communities, sharing new innovations for their ministries.
This second picture, showing the flight to Egypt of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus to escape the slaughter of the young children in Bethlehem, is also from the site in old Cairo, traditionally held to be the temporary home of the holy family. There have been many stories of peoples fleeing persecution and warfare, and in our time none has been more tragic than the bloodshed in the Sudan which still continues after 30 years. I hear reports from Sudanese students at this seminary that when Christ is preached in the midst of that conflict, young people still come forward to commit their lives to Christ.
....Daniel, a student from the Sudan, is writing his thesis on the concept of suffering which St. Paul presents in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians. It will have a special meaning and relevance for him, and for his people, and maybe for all of us. I will keep you informed about the progress of these papers.
Soon, I will write again, and give you more information about the Sudanese refugee community in Egypt. We have three ELCA missionaries working with them. More later. I am well and hope that you all are. Peace, Roger