Friday, December 26, 2008

Greetings in the 12 Days of Christmas

Hello from Cairo. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Actually living here I get to celebrate two Christmases, the one in the West and in 12 days, the one in the Middle East. Has something to do with different calendars and long held traditions. I want to continue to introduce the second year students in the graduate program to you and say a few words about the topics for their dissertations. My last blog already talked about Fouad, his new job in our office and his desire to research the influences of Midianite religion (via the father-in-law of Moses) on Egyptian monotheism.

Rania, the one women currently in the program, is married to a divinity student at ETSC and they have one child. They serve in a Baptist church here in Cairo. She is a great help to the faculty and students in translating the lectures of "western" professors whose ability in Arabic does not permit to teach in that language, yet. She is a fine person and a role model of other Egyptian Christian women who want to advance their educations as far as the society here permits them to do so. At the present time, the Presbyterian Synod of the Nile, an independent church in the world-wide "Reform" tradition, does not permit women to serve as ordained leaders.

The topic for her dissertation is the development of the concepts of "Son of God" and "Messiah" in the Hebrew Bible and the Intertestamental period until they become merged in the confessional declarations for Jesus by the disciples in the Gospels. She first became interested in this period of history in a class taught in the Fall of 2007 by Dr. Julius Scott, and wants to use this opportunity to learn more about the many developments during that time. The recent discoveries of the documents of the Qumran community and other "intertestamental" records will be helpful for tracing the developments. Dr. Willem deWit, our new professor in Biblical studies, will be her advisor.
Musa, our student from the Sudan, plans to return to his country after completing his dissertation in later Spring of 2009 to teach at the Biblical school where he had taught before coming to Cairo. Like Daniel who graduated last year, he must be away from his family for a year at a time. A generous gift from Presbyterians in the United States pays for his tuition and other seminary expenses, his room and board here, and also provides a modest gift to help his family with their living expenses while he is away. The graduate program has educated students from several other Middle East countries, some of whom have returned to teach in their home countries, and others have gone on to study in Europe and in the United States.

The topic for his dissertation will be the concepts of "true" and "false" grace in the writings of Paul and the Letters of James and Jude. Musa is quite concerned that Christians in his own country have confused and distorted the teachings of Paul and other New Testament writers. So, he hopes to contribute Biblical insights that will be helpful in his own church and context. Musa is also in the Biblical studies concentration and has had to study advanced Hebrew and Greek with the other students. He started speaking his native dialect in the Sudan, learned English in school, and now preaches in Arabic and English to a refugee Sudanese community in Cairo.

Wagdy is a second student in the Christianity in the Middle East section (along with Fouad). He is active as a translator with a major book publisher in Egypt which produces books in Arabic and English. He has been asked to write an article for them on the current attitudes in Egyptian Christianity on Israel and Zionism, which will appear shortly.

His topic is the responses of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt during the turbulent years of the 1960s, when Egypt won its independence from England under the leadership of Abdul Nasser. These were years of an attempt at a union betweeen Syria and Egypt into an Arab League. They were also years when the new constitutions of Arab countries included provisions to retain Islam law as the basic for government, posing problems for Christian communities in Egypt and elsewhere. He hopes to provide some insights from that period which will be helpful for Christians in Egypt in the future.
John Daniel, nicknamed the "Greek Guy" by his classmates because he comes from Athens and serves an international Christian group with ministries throughout the Mediterranean, has many skills. Fluent in modern and koine Greek he is being used by the seminary to introduce the divinity students to the Greek language of the New Testament. He became interested in the modern scholarship on the first three Gospel (called the Synoptics by scholars because of their simularity and their differences from the Gospel of John) from a class last year by Dr. Paul Dilley. Paul is now back in the United States and has obtained a teaching position at a university in the Mid-West.
John Daniel will use his expertise to suppport the theory that Matthew and Luke both had copies of Mark's Gospel when they wrote theirs, and used his basic outline. He will discuss the changes in the Greek verb tense by these two later evangelists from what Mark had written. Like the other students, John Daniel will have an advisor and will defend his dissertation (about 70-80 pages in length) before a panel of three professors, one of whom will be from outside our seminary community. One of the things which makes this writing more difficult is that these students have all learned English as a second language. This often means that they first attain the ability to communicate verbally in a classroom situation before developing the writing skills needed to complete a dissertation.
A blesseed new year to all. Roger R.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meet my Colleagues

Greetings again from Cairo:

I want to introduce you to the two persons who share the responsibilities for the programs in the master's program with me at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. The first is professor Willem Jan deWit who has been send by his mission society in the Netherlands for a period of seven years. He has been teaching Greek and Latin in a school there and is also well versed in Hebrew, and in the area of Biblical studies. This will be a great help to the program here to have a scholar for a significant number of years who can make the adjustments he feels are best for that program. In the past we have had to rely on a visiting professor who would stay a year or a term, and had to make adjustments as these people resources became available. He will teach two classes each term, alternating with advanced Hebrew and advanced Greek, and Old Testament and New Testament exegesis. He is completing his Ph.D. dissertation on contemporary religious thought in "Post-Christian" Amsterdam.

His Dutch mission society supports his work here, and this is another example of how the seminary benefits from the support of institutions outside of Egypt. He is learning Arabic, and sometime in the future may be able to teach in the seminary's other programs which train church leaders for the Presbyterian Church of the Nile (also referred to as the Coptic Evangelical Church in Egypt). Those programs are all in Arabic. We share the apartment in Nasr City, which is about a 30 minute drive from the seminary (when there is no traffic).

During these last few years the seminary has been investigating how it can offer programs which aid the graduate-pastors in their work once they leave the seminary. ETSC has now contracted with an international group called "Development Associates International" (DAI), which operates a world wide ministry out of Colorado in the U.S.). This Christian evangelical group is more than ten years old and has been offering a three year program throughout the world in church adminstration and strategic planning, mainly through distance learning (CDs and internet contacts), as well as having two, one-week classes with the professors on campus. Upon completion of the assignments and a thesis, which is to be a strategic long range plan for the place where these leaders are serving, the seminary will award them a master's degree in church administration. Although the program is technically under my supervision, the work of the "co-ordinator" will be by an Egyptian who speaks both Arabic and English. Meet Fouad Shaker, a second year graduate student who has been hired to work two days a week to oversee this program.
Fouad is well qualified, having worked in programs as varied as youth ministry in the Presbyterian Church in Egypt and on archeological digs throughout the country. The dissertation he is beginning as part of his master's degree is going to be on the possibile influences of the Midianites (Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses) on Egyptian thought at the time of the Pharoahs. He will try to show some influences leading toward monotheism. His plan is to complete this by June of 2009.
In addition to the administrative duties with DAI, Fouad will be responsible for setting up small groups of the students (most of whom will be parish pastors), who will meet monthly to support one another in the program. He is an excellent resource to them as they deepen their knowledge on how to minister to their people. If you want to learn more about DAI and the program they are offering with ETSC and at other locations through the world, you can visit their web site at:
Blessings in this Advent season. Will try to write again in about two week. In Christ, Roger R.
By the way, let me remind you that the work I have been doing here is supported by the Global Missions Division of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (We would appreciate contributions to help finance my work - Go to the ELCA web site for more information). We are agressively recruiting someone to take my place, to begin work in August of next year (2009). If you know of someone who might be interested, go to the ELCA web site and to Global Missions service oppprtunities. Applications are being sought until March, 2009. Thank you

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Class Begins

Greetings again from Cairo. We have just started another class in the Fall term. In the first picture you see Dr. Jan Opsal, a professor from the School of Mission and Theology, in Stavanger, Norway, who will be the instructor, and some of the students participating in the class. It is titled: "Sharing the Same Prophets - Men in the Muslim and Christian Scriptures". Dr. Jan is in the blue shirt, and a second student from Norway, Kate, is on the left, with some students you have met before.

The course will review the stories of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus as they are portrayed in the Qur'an and Hadith (traditions) of Islam, and the Old and the New Testament of Christians. It will use the same format as the course Dr. Jan taught on "Women in the Muslim and Christian Scriptures" last January. This combined course signals a growing partnership between his institution and the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. It is hoped that in the future some ETSC students will travel to Stavanger for a semester or two as part of their studies program.
Because of Dr. Jan's tight schedule the class will meet for only four weeks (til mid December) and for a longer period of time each Tuesday and Wednesday.

We are pleased that this relationship between our two schools is continuing. Dr Jan will also teach two of our Scholar's Seminars on Tusday afternoons while he is here. These are open to all faculty, other students who speak English, and guests from the wider academic community in Cairo

To the left is the syllabus for the class and a book which I want to recommend which follows the same plan as Dr. Jan's class. Let me quote a few sentencs from the introduction to the book to give you some idea of how this works. Under the subtitle: "Joseph Meets Joseph" the author Dr. John Kaltner writes:
A comparative analysis of the Joseph story in the Qur'an and the
Bible that is informed by narrative criticism allows us to come to a
fuller understanding of the rhetorical dimension of the two texts.
{The Bible and the Qur'an are} put in conversation with each other
in a prolonged and detailed way. (p. xix + xx)
He goes on to say that we can "listen in" on that encounter (between Joseph and Joseph) as though we were sitting in a circle with the two different story tellers, each intent on telling the story in such a way as to convey what that person wishes to say.
Worth looking into. The book should be available in the United States. Its full title is: "Inquiring of Joseph, Getting to Know a Biblical Character through the Qur'an", from a series called "interfaces", Barbara Green, Editor. It is published by the Liturgical Press out of Collegeville, Minnesota.
Last week I presented the prospectus for my January course on "Biblical Hermeneutics in the Modern World" at a Scholar's Seminar. One definition of "Hermeneutics" is the study and the methods we employ to get the most out of the Biblical texts. This is what I will try to do in my class. That is what Dr. Jan is doing in his class. If you would like a copy of the text I used in my presentation, you can write me at my e-mail address:
Hope you are well. Roger

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Doing Research in Egypt

Greetings from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. We are well into our fall term. One of the classes I am teaching is to help students identify and research the topic they will develop into a master's thesis in the last half of their second year. This involves using a book entitled: "The Craft of Research", by Wayne Booth. The course also helps to provide tips for the students as they study and write in English, a second language for each. Pictured here are some of the students and faculty who attended a recent "Scholar's Seminar", an opportunity to have faculty and students present "papers" which can be discussed and reviewed. Next week, the five students on their second year will present the "tentative" subject for their dissertations. We want them to demonstrate a knowledge of what they have learned in classes in Biblical Studies or Christianity in the Middle East, and then to make an original contribution to their field of research. This will analyse original sources and will also connect with an interest in their own lives and ministries. I will discuss these with you in a later blog.
Pictured to the right is a professor in Church History at the seminary, The Rev. Wageeb, who led the seminar on how to access resources on line from the United States. The seminary subscribes to a service called "ATLA" (the American Theological Library Association), which offers its users a way to review and download resources from hundreds on valuable periodicals produced over the last several years. It will be too costly for this or any seminary to order all of these and to store them. The Rev. Wageeb, who graduated from the master's program several years ago, is presently teaching at ETSC, and is pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Birmingham in England. It is an important goal of the seminary to provide for the study of its Egyptian teachers aboard, so they can increase in their scholarship and teaching ability. The Presbyterian Church in America shares an objective with The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to train indigenous leaders and scholars so that they can assume more responsibility for the ministry of their churches. Missionaries from the United States seek to aid in this development and in effect want "to work themselves out of a job". We also will welcome the contributions to be made in the future by "non-western" scholars. The Rev, soon to be Doctor Wageeb, is one of these.

Hope all are well. Will write again soon.

Roger Rogahn

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First week of school

Greetings again from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. We have just completed our first week of the Fall term. The first picture shows most of the first and second year students in the master's program, and the teacher from the Netherlands, Professor Jan deWit. The woman with blond hair (as you can imagine) is the visiting student from Norway. The stairs are at the front entrance of the administrative and classroom building of the seminary. The
classes will run until late December. Professor deWit is teaching a course on Isaiah, and I am teaching two classes, Christianity in the Middle East - III (1800 to the present) and a course which helps students with their research and in writing a dissertation during their second year. I will let you know soon what their topics will be.

In November and December we will welcome back a professor from Norway, Dr. Jan Opsal. He will bring some students with him and teach a course entitled: "Sharing the Same Prophets, Men in the Muslim and Christian Scriptures". It will examine the ways that five men, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, are portrayed in the Qur'an and Hadith, and in the Christian Bible. It should be as interesting and stimulating as the one he taught last January on the women of our traditions. I am also looking forward to teaching a class in January entitled: "Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Hermeneutics) in the 20th century". This will include a study of feminist interpretations, interpretations from Latin America "liberation" scholars, and what has come to be called: "Post-Colonial Hermeneutics", the writings of Middle Eastern, African and Asian Biblical scholars, who, while acknowledging their debt to European and American teachers, are developing their own "contextual" interpretations. Should be quite a challenge to teach.

The second picture shows the participants in the seminary retreat, which was held the week before school started. Its purposes were: to welcome new students, to renew friendship with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students, and to hear
about the summer practical experiences they had. In addition to the 4 years of study, divinity students at ETSC work each summer in a field assignment, and are also required to do one year of internship after graduation before being eligible for ordination in the Presbyterian Synod of the Nile. There is a great need here for pastor/developers, particularly in the rural ares where the Synod has land and buildings and small communities of faith, but no ordained leaders. I hope to be able to visit some of these ministry sites during this school year.

That is all for now. Hope you are well. Blessings, Roger Rogahn

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

International Coptic Conference

Greetings again from Cairo and the Evangelical Theological Seminary. We are just about to start our fall term. The new Biblical studies teacher, Willem de Wit, has arrived from the Netherlands and is settling in. He will teach a course in Isaiah while finishing his dissertation. We have three new students in Biblical studies and one in Christianity in the Middle East, the field in which I teach.

To the right is the tower and part of the administration buildings for the Coptic Cathedral where the conference sessions are being held. This building complex, close to where our seminary is located, was built with the permission of the Egypian government of President Mubarak a few decades ago. As you can see, its tower ascends sky-ward, as do the minarets of the many mosques in Cairo.
This is the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims when the devoted fast from sunup to sundown. Fasting is a discipline of the Coptic Church here in Egypt as well.

The spirirtual leader of the Egyptian Orthodox Church (the Copts) is Pope Shenouda, an aged patriarch, who traces his heritage back the the Evangelist Mark (by tradition) who founded the Christian Church here after the ascension of Jesus. By tradition, St. Mark was one of the seventy sent out, and his mission field was Egypt, one of the intellectual centers of the Roman Empire. I just reviewed a Coptic book which sets forth the long history of the church and its leaders. Another time I will write some more of this pontiff, since his reign will be one of the topics we will explore in the course I am teaching on Christianity in the Middle East from 1800 to the present. By the way, if you want to learn a little more about Egypt, there is a book recently published in the United States entitled "Mirage, Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt", by Nina Burleigh. It is very readable and gives some picture of the harsh conditions encountered by the French (and by early missionaries from the U.S. here). Nothing like today.
To the left is the sign which bears Pope Shenouda's invitation to about 250 scholars from around the world. Among the presenters and moderators is a former director of the graduate program here, Dr. Mark Swanson, who now serves on the faculty of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, Il. We are also expecting a visit from Dr. David Grafton, my predecessor, who left here two years ago to teach at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He will bring a group of seminary students from his Center on Islamic Studies in January, and they will interact with the graduate students here.
The conference offered many interesting presentations, and some boring ones too. There seems to be a dramatic increase in interest about Egypt and the Coptic Church. One reason for this is the discovery or recovery and restoration of many manuscripts and sites of the ancient and medieval church. The last picture is just a sample of the beautiful art work on display and available to the visitor and pilgrim to Egypt.
More soon on the start of school. Peace and joy. Roger Rogahn

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Greetings again from Cairo. We are still preparing for the fall term which begins the end of September. Some things happening in the meantime are:

The arrival of a Biblical scholar, Willem de Wit, from the Netherlands to help teach masters' students,
The 9th Annual Congress of Coptic Studies (15-20 of September),

The arrival and settling in of the Peter Johnson family (He is the new regional rep. for the ELCA)

And a chance for me to do some travelling and visiting with colleagues from the seminary. Thus begins my story and brief reflection about art in this place over the centuries.

I have become more fascinated by the art of all cultures in these last few years, and coming to Egypt exposed me to some of the treasures from this place. In a visit to the Egyptian Museum shortly after my arrival I came across a small section devoted to portrait-paintings from the Greco-Roman period. Thus begins my story. The first picture is not from Cairo, but of a fresco now in Naples which comes from the ruins of Pompeii. Few of these still exist due to the ravages of time and tragedy. This one gives us a glance into the life of a simple baker family, their appearance and their dress. Note how the couple faces us and how prominent the eyes are depicted. They seem to be looking at us, or maybe a little beyond us. Fresco painting was popular for walls and ceiling. It involved mixing the pigment of the paint powder with the wet plaster as it was being applied. It remains a method in many parts of the world. I remember being fascinated with the frescos of Diego Rivera and other Mexican artists of the 20th century.

Another method employed from ancient times to depict images was through mosaics, the insertion of many tiny painted tiles onto a ceiling, wall or floor surface. These often retained their color for centuries because they had been baked into the surface. The sheen remains. An example of this is from the entrance to a Coptic Church of St. Mina, on the outskirts of Cairo. Some friends and I were there to witness a Coptic wedding. The mosaic of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus seemed to sparkle in the later afternoon sun.
Notice too that their portrait presents them as facing directly toward us, yet we will soon see in a close up of the face of Mary that the gaze is much like the one of the couple in the fresco above. This illustrates how the Christians adopted some of the features from past art.

Another method of portrait painting which was very popular is the Greco-Roman and early Christian period in Egypt evolved from the wooden masks which were put in the coffins of the Egyptian pharoahs and other nobility from ancient times. This method, called "encaustic painting" involved applying the paint with hot wax to a wooden surface. It allowed the details to remain rich and vibrant over the centuries. Many of these masks, uncovered by treasure seekers from the West as early as 1615, became very popular in Europe during the 19th century. Again, the gaze or stare of the woman is a very striking feature of the painting. How she appeared in life was to be remembered as this "mask" was placed on her body in the tomb.
Now compare her with the close up of the mosaic face of the Virgin
from the front of the Church of St. Mina. To me the same emphasis on the eyes (perhaps showing more compassion), and the gaze which seems on the one hand to be directed toward you, the viewer, and yet in some way beyond you. Art historians have suggested that the Christians during these early centuries wanted to portary its saints as real people, living normal lives and relating to us, and yet with a gaze that stretches beyond the chances and changes of this age to a new life and anticipates a world which await those who trust in the Lord.
More information about the school and its activities will follow soon. Hope you are well. Roger Rogahn

Friday, August 8, 2008


Greetings again from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, where I will be serving as an ELCA Missionary directing the Master's Program. Immediately after my return here in early August, the faculty retreat was held for the coming year. Pictured is one of the planning sessions of the five day retreat, when we were together in a suburb of Alexandria, Egypt.

Many topics were covered:

- the opening of a distance learning center in southern Egypt, where there has been significant
growth in the past several years. The seminary wants
to be more available to the pastors and lay leaders in their ministries and to become even more sensitive to the challenges of parish ministry in the 21st century.

- a review of the curriculum and a standarization of requirments for all seminary courses in the program to train pastors (i.e. how much reading is required, how many papers, etc.). This is particularly important because the seminary employs several part-time teachers and all need to be on "the same page".

- the faculty includes mostly Egyptian teachers and is supplement by teachers and other staff from North
Americans, who received their financial support from the Presbyterians and Mennonite communities world-wide. Dr. Darren Kennedy has just been awarded his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh and his spouse Elizabeth is writing her thesis at the same school. She will return to teaching Hebrew at the seminary this fall. Dr. Dustin Elingston teaches New Testament courses. The Rev. Brice Rogers heads the Development Department at the Seminary. (The Seminary still receives the majority of its financial support from ouside of Egypt, but this is changing as the visits by seminary personnel to Presbyterian churches in Egypt encourage each congregation to have a "Seminary Sunday", and receive an offering to support its work. Ms. Elaine Pequegnat, a Canadian, teaches English at the Seminary.

All are deeply committed to their ministry. Classes begin the last week in September.

The seminary community held its own version of the Olympics, which included water sports and track events.
(I placed last in the competition in the water balloon

toss). It was nice to have many of the families of the faculty be with us for the five days of the retreat. It was held in a Christian community, away from the traffic, the noise, and the smoggy skies of Cairo. Now it is back to work, preparing classes for the fall, dealing with registration issues, (it looks like we we be receiving at least six new students, including a visiting student from Norway - I am still waiting for the TOEFL - "english competency test" for others - a score of 500 is required), and the opportunity to welcome a new Biblical scholar from the Netherlands.

But more about that in my next report which should come about the end of this month. Stay well and cool.

Thank you for your support and prayers. In Christ, Roger Rogahn

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Graduating Class No. 139

Greetings from Cairo! We have just completed the graduation ceremonies for 20 students to receive their diplomas; certificates, bachelor of divinity degrees, and masters degrees. You see them pictured above along with the dignitaries who presented their awards. It was the 139th time the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo has graduated a class, showing the long term investment in the mission field here by the Presbyterian Church in America and other overseas partners, in cooperation with its local colleagues. Though still a tiny minority within this predominately Muslim country, it presents a strong witness to evangelical and ecumenical Christianity, and works with the wider Christian community in the Middle East to live as gentle and loving neighbors in this diversity.

I had written in an earlier blog that Christian church buildings are not as prominent on the landscape as you would find in the United States and Europe, but as you can see from this picture to the right, this one and a few others are of grand size, seating over 1,000 worshippers. The church was filled to capacity with family members and friends of the graduates. A few of the graduates with a divinity degree will serve as assistants in churches like this one in the center and suburbs of Cairo, but most will receive a first call to rural or small town communities throughout Egypt. Several have put off marrying until the finish of their studies. (This reminds me a little of the situation not too long ago in the U.S., when only men were called to serve as pastors and when weddings and ordinations occurred in the same year).
I will complete the administrative tasks for this first year in the next few weeks and fly to the U.S. for vacation, a conference with other missionaries, and visits with family and friends. I will also be visiting First Lutheran Church in Torrance, California on July 6th. They have been contributing support to my work here, for which I am very grateful. If you would like me to speak at your church (in the southern California area - June 22nd, 29th, July 13th and 20th are available, or during the week), please let me know. I will return to Cairo on the first of August to participate in the faculty retreat. My appointment is again for one year, while the Global Missions Division of the ELCA searches for a "younger", long term replacement. I will write again when I have news, probably in early September. In Christ, Roger Rogahn

Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduation for Masters' Students

The spring term at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo is almost concluded and we will have four students receiving their Masters' degrees in the program I have been called to administer. The picture above shows the four, about to make their presentations to the "Scholar's Seminar" last week. Behind them are three of the faculty of the seminary. The one in white shirt and tie is Dr. Atef Gendy, who serves at the president of the seminary. The students have been working with an advisor all this term and will "defend" their dissertations to a committee of three professors this coming week, before receiving their diplomas at the graduation ceremonies on May 30.
Briefly, here is some information about them and their work:
Daniel Amum (at the far left) is a pastor from the Sudan who has written an analysis of the concept of affliction (sufferings) in St. Paul, particularly in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He has developed this so that as he returns to his Christian community in that African country still so involved in turmoil and violence he can lead his people in their faith journeys. He has written how Paul accepts suffering for Christ, and that this has been an essential part of his ministry. Daniel writes that the Christians in the Sudan have also grown in numbers and in faith during their time of tribulation.
Nashat Habi, to the right of Daniel with the dark glasses, has written abou the development and use of the "Van Dyke" Bible, an Arabic translation of the Bible done by a 19th century missionary. It is currently in use among most Christian groups in Egypt. Nashat looks at the reasons for a new translation to be developed today, using the Biblical texts in Hebrew and Greek which were not available to Van Dyke and up-dating the Arabic (since this language too has undergone significant changes in the last 150 years). Nashat works with the Bible Society of Egypt and his dissertation will help that organization in its study of the issue of a new translation.
To Nashat's left is Magdy Rida, who has worked many years as an engineer in Egypt, and has returned to the seminary to study. His topic is the study of the influence of the Evangelicals who have come to Egypt since the mid 19th century on the Egyptian Coptic Church, the church which has been the community of Christian witness here from the beginning. He shows how some positive efforts, like the Sunday school movement, have opened the Orthodox Church to a more ecumenical world view, and also provided current church leaders with the inspiration to write literature using more Biblical texts for their community. Though Evangelicals and the Coptic Church are separate identities here, they work together on many projects.
Sungmin Cho has completed her dissertation on the history and disappearance of the Nubian Church, (the area south of Egypt which for many centuries provided a stronghold for Christian communities). She cites several reasons for this, the most important being that the churches there never developed a truly indigenous expression which touched the hearts of the common people. After graduation she plans to serve as a Korean missionary in Upper Egypt.

That's all for now. The next blog will feature pictures of the graduation of students preparing for ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church of the Nile. Blessings, Roger

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gender Issues in the Middle East

Greetings to you at the beginning of May. The seminary is nearing the completion of its spring term. Four graduate students are working frantically to finish their dissertations in time to be recognized at graduation the end of this month. I will share that celebration with you. In addition to concluding my class in the "History of Christianity until 1800", I have been researching the themes for next year's classes. A book which caught my eye, reissued this year is pictured here, and sold at the American University in Cairo book store, (also available from presents essays on how the gifts and contributions of women can be identified and included in addressing issues and problems for our common humanity in this region. One which particularly caught my eye was: "Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Accord: Feminist Approaches to International Politics" by Simoni Sharoni, a Jewish feminist working in Washington, D.C.

Since the peace process has been restarted between Israel and Palestine, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you and encourage you to read the article, others in this book, and from other literature to be better informed than what we get on the news. Beginning with a review of the Olso Peace Accords of 1993, Ms. Sharoni shows how the contributions of women's groups of Palestinians and Israelis working together have been largely ignored and dismissed. She calls for three ways to redress this:
....Include in the delegations to current talks an equal number of women.

....Listen to perspectives other than the masculine-militaristic approach - ones which include the insights and experiences of women from both sides with their understandings of peace and security.

....Review the basic assumptions about the processes, practices and prevailing power relations which have operated up until now.

Central to this discussion and a major part of the emergeance of what is termed the "feminist movement of the 20th Century"is the assumption that women can and should be freed to develop their own identities and insights which arise out of their particular origins and contexts. This also relates to the ways that women review and challenge the resources from the past and how these have been interpreted by mostly male scholars and out of a male-oriented power base.
Other examples of this are to be found in another book we will be using, (at the right) which supplies information about the stories and struggles of Islamic women within their culture. The new approach regarding the study of Holy Scriptures is the same developed and used by western feminists in the past century: look again at texts, and to review and critique it in the light of its environment and cultures of that time,
- and - bring the experiences of the women who study these texts to bear, and to affirm new insights and "truths" which connect and combine what God's Spirit has done in the past with what it is doing today among God's people, valuing what arises out of their own realities. This is a particularly difficult and risky task within present Islamic cultures, as you might imagine.
To say all this another way: to accept women as also created in the image of God, means to affirm and value who they are and what they can contribute for themselves and for us all. Another author puts it this way:
>Women need to be made visible again in all their realities, often
hidden and forgotten
>Women need to analyze these realities in the light of what is
wrong and describe what should be
>Women need to work with men in the transformation of existing
Lots still to learn and to share. I welcome your comments. You can use the blog or my e-mail -
Peace and justice to all, Roger Rogahn

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cave Churches in Cairo

Greetings! We are coming to the celebration of Holy Week in Egypt (using the Eastern Christian calendar), and you will soon be remembering the Ascension of our Lord in your churches. With a visiting professor in Hebrew, I journeyed last week to an outlying area of Cairo where mostly Christians live. As we inched our ways through narrow streets, lined with large bags of garbage and trash, pungeant aromas filled the air. (Christians have performed the job of collecting garbage for a long time, and here the garbage and trash is sorted and recycling work takes place.) But then we came to a hillside beyond the village, and to an area where the Coptic Church was permiited to develop a worship center (about 20 years ago), and this is what we saw. Because of the mostly dry climate in Egypt and the high cost of erecting buildings, the Coptic church has constructed an outdoor, ampitheatre church facility, where the entrance to a cave has been transformed into the chancel and altar area. (You can see a little of the celebrating bishop in the white robe with his back to us at the entrance to the inner cave).

The entire area seves as a gathering place for Coptic people. Here, visible signs tell the Good News of Jesus, where in the public spaces of Cairo this would not be possible. Reliefs have been carved into the hillsides and there are chapels devoted to St. Anthony (the father of Egyptian monasticism) and other holy men. The picture to the left shows a small chapel dedicated to the Ascension depicted in a mosaic on the dome. On the hillside behind is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which has the inscription underneath: "Blessed is he who comes....Jesus, command your disciples to be silent....if so, then the stones themselves would cry out!" There is an irony here - in this place where Christians can "display" their message openly - that the stones are called upon to help proclaim the Lord's coming.

This Sunday was set aside for baptisms and about 100 families had come to have their children become part of Christ's Church. One mother proudly held up her son (and hid behind him?) asking me to take a picture. Two things are interesting in this. You would normally not see women in public dressed in bright colors and without veils. But here in this worship center this is possible. Second, you would not normally see a display of the cross in public, but again since this is an area set aside for Christians to gather it is possible. One sign of the vitality of the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. More on the practice of infant baptism and the impact of the "evangelicals" from the United States in a later blog. Peace and Justice, Roger

(I have formally signed on for another year at the seminary. Will be in the Los Angeles area late June through late July if you would like me to speak at your church. Contact me at

Monday, April 7, 2008

St. Catherine's Monastery and Mt. Sinai

Greetings from Egypt! I was privileged to join with many of the students of the seminary to visit St. Catherine's monastery, which stands at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the mountain where Moses led the people of Israel during the Exodus. The monastery was built by the first Christian emperor, Constantine I, in 333 C.E. to honor the woman who was martyred in Alexandria during the years of persecution, before the empire became Christian in the early 4th cenury. It became and has been since that time a place of pilgrimage. You can see the heavy walls which surround the church and cloister, which still is home for about 45 monks. These were built during turbulent times to protect them and the religious treasures and manuscripts housed there, which are on display to the public for about 3 hours daily.

I am learning that not only was monasticism a very significant movement and development in the life of the ancient church, but has continued to be a place where people come away from the world for a short time or for the rest of their lives. The number of people entering monasteries in Egypt is increasing. Today, monasteries are also important in the life of the Egyptian Coptic Church, for "men" from these cloistered environments are chosen to be bishops and the new Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church when necessary. The people have continued to appeal to these "holy men", who seek quiet and solitude away from the world to move closer to God, so that these "spiritual" persons may lead them in religious matters, and also serve as administrators of the church, and in its interaction with the Muslim society and the government of Egypt. Not an easy task.

This is a copy of a painting I purchased at the monastery, by the Spanish artist "El Greco". The monastery is small in comparison to the mountains which surround it, the center one being Mt. Sinai. Together with the students and faculty of the seminary, I arose early one morning (about 2:00 a.m.) and ascended the four and one half miles to the top (about 4,000 feet above), to watch the sun come up. We were not alone. Many others came, (probably a few thousand) from all parts of the world to be there, some making part of the ascent by camel. It is truly an example of a "multitude of saints" from many nations, gathered in one place. (It was also quite a traffic jam, particularly on the way down as people, tired from lack of sleep and the exertion, vied for space on the narrow, steep pathways. Fortunately, everyone arrived at the bottom safely.

I very much enjoyed sharing this informal time with the students and some faculty, and we reflected on the significance of these places. I shared that El Greco had added what seem to be faces on the mountains, and also crafted these to resemble human forms to remind us of those who had also been in this place, and appear to be watching over us, and that the same God who was present before in this place is present with us on our journeys through life.

Peace and Justice, Roger

Monday, March 24, 2008

Staying another year?

Greetings from Cairo. The Division for Global Missions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has asked me to consider staying a second year at the seminary, while they continue to search for a long term replacement. I have agreed to consider this. Though not yet final, it appears that I will return in June to the U.S. for two months and then come back here in mid August. The experience I have received and the help of colleagues here to orient me makes this possible.

I have been thinking about what courses will be offered in 2008-2009. Along with the Bibical courses which others will teach, I will be responsible for courses in middle eastern church history, from the beginning to the coming of Islam, and in the 19th century to the present.
I have asked myself what else I can contribute which comes from my background and experience.
This brings me to my first picture: a wall mural from a rural village church in El Salvador, where I served as teacher for four years. An elective course which the previous director, David Grafton (who now teaches at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia), developed here was an exploration of various Biblical interpretation methods which arose in the 20th century, many of them in countries in the southern regions of our globe,when they had been freed from European and North American colonial rule after World War II. The countries still received missionaries from the "First World", but more and more (sometimes with resistence and hesitancy) the indigenous teachers in these "Third World" countries have taken what they have judged to be valued (the historical-critical method of Biblical studies would be one example) and moved on to produce materials which arise out of their own context and their own studies, and which express their own understandings and "theologies".

In Latin America, the term "praxis" was used to describe how students of Scripture received the best from the past, but with a critical attitude which brings their own insights and experiences of their reality to their reflections . This has often led them to reject or modify the "lenses" of interpretation which have come from the outside, and to develop their own. Recently, this seminary received two books from our Norwegian friends, (pictured to the right)
which describe the development of interpretative studies in sub-saharan Africa. The Old Testament has been a particularly exciting area of study, because there are many similarities between the societies of the two. Back to the first picture for a moment. One aspect of Latin America Lutheran theology in El Salvador is the "wholistic" approach to life and to the study of Scriptures (represented by the phrases and examples: "peace with God". "peace with our brothers and sisters", "peace within ourselves" and "peace with the natural world"). This has become an important feature of the study of Scripture in Africa, incorporating the whole person in community and in the world, and not seeing the person primarily as individual and unconnected to other people and the world.
One study on the Old Testament Book of Proverbs can serve to illustrate an African author's approach. He cites the passages which lift up the poor and condemn the rich, and suggest this condition as not of God's plan. Though few in number in the book, he sees these references to the injustices are privotal in criticizing the "status quo rather than accepting and supporting it (the way I was taught to view Proverbs), and to lift up a cry of hope as well as pain about the way things are. One can see how the author has benefited from the fulness of the historical-critical method introduced from the west, and combined this with his community's reflections on its reality. What I hope to do if I remain here another year is to continue a main focus of the master's program: To introduce materials which challenge the students to think critically, and which encourage them to challenge what they have received from their own context to produce new insights appropriate to this place.
(More another time of what the ELCA means by a south-south strategy - but for now my bringing insights from Latin America is one part of this). Peace and justice. Roger

Friday, March 14, 2008

a lighter moment

Greetings again from Cairo. We have the opportunity here to celebrate Christ's resurrection twice (actually don't we do it every Sunday?), once by the western church calendar which you will be doing shortly, and almost a month later by the eastern church dating. The pictures I want to show you are of a "community day" held recently for students, faculty and staff, and seminary workers. Although most of the 150 students are housed at the seminary during the week, many of them return to their home churches to serve on the weekends. This event, which helps to build community was on Saturday, March 8th, the third one this year which serves as a relaxing, fun time for staff and students. The next one, in a few weeks, will be a trip to St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai. I am planning to attend and will comment on it in my next blog. Also, in the background of this photo are two of the three buildings of the seminary. The one on the left houses several faculty families, and the other is the administrative office building and classrooms. Classes are about half way into the spring term, and plans are being made for the fall schedule, which will begin in late September.

An additional aim of the seminary, along with the training of pastors for parish work in this context, and teachers through the master's program which I am directing this year, is to equip the faculty further for its work through providing fellowships for their advanced study abroad. Several faculty members have completed Ph.D. degrees in Europe and the United States. The girl and boy pictured to the left are not examples of this, but rather are the children of three faculty members. The young girl is one of two children in the seminary's chaplain family, (the father hopes to begin advanced study soon in Europe), and the young boy (you can guess some of the family history here) of the couple where the father is to be awarded a Ph.D. from Edinburgh, Scotland this spring. The mother is well on her way to finishing her Ph.D. dissertation at the same school. You can find out more information about the Kennedys and Chaplain Ephraim on the seminary web site ( The financial support of churches in the United States and in Europe is essential in this. If you are interested in more infomation, you can contact me at: The Graduate Studies committee helps to oversee this program.
A blessed Holy Week and Easter to all. Roger.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fans and Fanatics

Egypt won! Last week the national football (soccer) team of Egypt defeated Cameron (1-0) in the finals of the all African tournament. There was much rejoicing far into the night and the television
stations have replayed many times the highlites of the game and of the celebrations that followed. All Egypt were enthusiasts, fans, in a nice moment of national pride.
To the right is a poster which catches that spirit.

In the class I am teaching in Christianity from the time of Islam's beginnings until 1900, we are investigating what it is to be a "fan", and the differences between being a "fan", devoted to one's faith and committed to its principles, and being a "fanatic", going to extremes in one's actions to demonstrate one's allegiance to these truths. Sometimes in today's world we only associate this later concept of "being a fanatic" with the violent actions and destructive terrorism perpetrated by our "enemies" upon innocent victims. There has certainly been an abundance of such acts, most notably the terrible destruction of human life on September 11, 2001, and other acts of terrorism in this century, and these are to be deplored.

However, to gain a wider historical perspective on religion and violence, we are using a book recently written by Michael Gaddis: "There is no Crime for Those Who have Christ, Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire" to examine the roots and the expressions of coercive force within Christian communities, as well as those used by their enemies against them. From the writings of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who supported actions by the state to protect Christian truth and unity ("compel the people to come in"), to the violence actions of Christians (often monks) convinced they were acting out God's will in the destructive of property and lives of pagans and Jews, and even other Christians, we are studying the "dark" side of our own tradition and how we have treated our "enemies".

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (described earlier) was once destroyed by a "fanatical" Muslim caliph of Egypt (al-Hakim of the Fatamid dynasty) in 1009, and though it was rebuilt soon afterwards and again open to Christian pilgrims, this act became one of the major rallying cries for the Christian crusades in the Middle Ages. What is not often noted is that when the Crusader armies conquered the holy city, they put to the sword all peoples living there, Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

A Muslim leader from Egyptian, the Sultan Salad ad-Din, is still celebrated today as a local heroe led the counterattack, and finally expelled the "Franks" (as the western Christians were then called) from the region. He fought hard to expel the invaders.

What is not often mentioned is that within Egypt he pursued a policy of relative peaceful co-existence with the Coptic Christian community. The monument pictured on the right is from that period of history here in Cairo. It is characteristic of much of Islamic architecture, and suggests one of the central concept of "Islam" or "Dar al Islam - the place where God is obeyed and peace reigns". The building incorporates many different patterns and geometric designs and yet for me forms a beautiful, compeling, whole structure, with a sense of peaceful harmony among its diverse elements. I believe that this is the aim and desire of the vast majority of Muslims as well as Christians in this place, to be fans of, that is, devoted to their own faith, while respectful of and committed to living in harmony with others. This building is a nice image from the past of that desire.

There are presently many acts of violence by the few in this world, which create fear in us, and there will probably be acts of violence in the future which will try to shape our actions and policies toward others. But I want to close this section with the aims of the institute which Dr. Hans Kung heads (the Global Ethic Foundation), which are helping to shape the theme of the class I am teaching:
No peace among the nations
without peace among the religions.
No peace among the religions
without dialogue between the religions.
No dialogue between the religions
without investigations of the foundations of the religions.
Peace and justice. Roger February, 25, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Visit to the Coptic Cathedral

Greetings again. Last evening (February 13th) I attended the monthly audience given at the Coptic Cathedral by their "pope". He is pictured here (at the left) with other bishops of this Egyptian Orthodox expression of the Christian Church. (Coptic and Egyptian are both words used to describe the Christian Church in this place from ancient times. If you want to read more about its history, you can go to the web site "Christian Coptic Orthodox Church"). A visiting German pastor had met a Coptic Bishop from Germany on his trip here and we had special front row seats and an English translation to help us appreciate the evening even more.

Some estimates place the number of Coptic Christian in this predominately Muslim country at about 10% of the population. In Cairo, they are clustered around the cathedral (a short walking distance from the seminary where I serve). The picture to the right is of a portion of the youth choir which sang for the people assembled (I would estimate the number was about 800 present). Their "pope" is a very charismatic leader and we could see this in the way the congregation responded to him. There was a need for security guards. mostly to handle the press of those who wished to get close to him. He took time to greet each of the choir members personally and to bless the small children who were brought to him.

The first part of his audience was to answer questions that had been submitted to him. The questions ranged from the meaning of St. Valentine's day (He answered that Christians do not set aside only one day for loving others) to the possibility of a divorse (not permitted) or an abortion, which the husband wanted, ("If the man is intelligent to help produce a child, he should be responsible enough to raise the child".)

He also touched on the connection of the Coptic Church to "evangelical" practices. He took several minutes to teach why his church practices full emersion in baptism (Part of this is to symbolized the dynamic of moving from death to new life), and to counsel a couple where the wife is evangelical that the children should be raised to participate in the litutgical life and devotional life of the church, including the observance of saints' days and periods of fasting. And, I would say that all of his instruction was gentle and filled with humor and humanity.

His homily talked about the importance of discipline and dedication in this season. He particularly talked to and about the clergy and the teachers of youth taking their responsibilities seriously in how they prepare the congregations for Lent and Easter and how they should frequently visit the people in their homes to encourage and to exhort them in the Christian life. In my class on the history of Christianity since the coming of Islam, there are many examples of bishops who were less than who they were called to be, but clearly this leader lives out his calling in a humble and loving way. Peace, as you continue your Lenten journey.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Entering into Lent

As one enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem one's gaze is first drawn upward to the central dome and then to a stone slab on the floor and this mosaic (to the right) on the wall. It is the dramatic reminder of the central events of the crucifixion, and then the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Islam has its focus upon the holy book, the Qur'an, conveyed to the Prophet Mohammad from God, while Christianity has its central focus upon a person.
Many, many, many years ago when I was doing my undergraduate work at Pomona College in Claremont, California, this book was part of the reading list for a religion course. "What Contemporary Theologians are Thinking." Some 'smart' collegian had changed the punctuation so that it read: "What! Contemporary Theologians are Thinking?"

We are beginning the spring term at the seminary and I am teaching a reading class on Middle Easter Christianity after the Rise of Islam. One of the book I am having the students read is a part of the new series called: "A People's History of Christianity"which focuses beyond the saints, bishops, and theologians of traditional history. There are plenty of these figures for us to study, (the religious controvesies, the polemics against one's enemies, etc.), but I believe that it is important to consider "what the common people were thinking about religion".

What is it that we "common people" think about in this season of Lent, and how does it relate to our Christian faith and life? The first three chapters of the People's History series on "Byzantine Christianity" suggest some themes.

The first is entitled: "Lay Piety in the Sermons of John Chrysostom" and focuses on the ways that the Christian message calls us all to consider how our lives are to be lived in response to God's will, and what amendment and transformation is called for. Not a bad Lenten exercise, whether it comes from the stirring of one's conscience or the preaching of God's Word. The second is entitled: "The Cult of the Martyrs and the Cappadocian Fathers" and discusses the ways in which the Church sought to regularize and shape the local piety of the faithful. People turned to the local shrines and the popular saints hoping to obtain all sorts of benefits from a gracious God, anything from the repair of hernia to the successful conclusion to a business venture. To believe that in God's love, one will receive "good things" was central and acted out in those pilgrimages and visits to "holy" places. (How is it with us?) The third chapter, entitled: "Romanos and the Night Vigil in the Sixth Century, begins with this marvellous quote by Arundhati Roy:
"The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably....They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't." (p. 59)
These third themes:
A time to examine our lives in relations to God's Word
A moment to anticipate the "goodness" of God in our lives - and
An opportunity again to hear and to become part of the "Greatest
can, I pray, help us on our Lenten journey. Peace, Roger

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More of Christmas Past and Mary

January 24, 2008
Greetings as we are quickly nearing the end of the Epiphany season. Barely time for one more reflection about Christmas and my visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Preparing for Christmas in Muslim society like Egypt does not allow for any of the public display of decorations or the broadcasting of Christmas "songs" that we find in the West. A few store windows in the Coptic Christian section of Cairo showed some gifts for the Yule season and I saw one flower shops that sold trees. But Christmas here is celebrated solely in the churches and in Christian homes, not in the whole society. Maybe, not such a bad idea to help strip away all the "other stuff" and focus on the true meaning where and when Christians gather.

Bethlehem as you might expect was different. The icon at the top is from the Church of the Nativity, a sacred site for many Christian traditions. I also worshipped with the Lutherans at the Christmas Church nearby where we were treated to a concert of fine Christmas music from two choirs visiting from the Chicago area.
(the picture just above) A very special celebration with a rich array of the music for the birth of the Christ child.

We have just finished the course entitled: Women in the Muslim (the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet) and in the Christian Scriptures. It was taught by a visiting professor from Norway. The virgin Mary is an honored woman in each. Some passages in the Qur'an and Luke are quite similar, particularly in the annunication story. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the announcement which she finds hard to believe. Then, in the Qur'an, Mary is instructed to prostrate herself before the majesty of God, a sign that as a woman, she has the same ability from creation to respond to the Almighty as does a man. And also, this request, or it seemed to me to be more like a demand by the angel, sets a model for all women of obedience. What Luke goes on to tell in the continuing dialogue between God's messenger and God's handmaiden is a wonderfully warm encounter, which culminates in the song of praise and adoration we call the "Magnificat". I am glad we have Luke as one of our four Gospel accounts.

I have just been reading the term paper by a first year Sudanese student named Musa (Moises) Kody. He too compares the passages in these scriptures concerning Mary, and adds this reflection at the end,

"As we know, it had been the practice of each group (Christians and Muslims) blindly to defend "their" book as the only true one and to portray the other to be false and corrupted. This paper does not follow that tendency, but seeks to be an open and faithful research for those with devoted hearts who believe not only in the Scriptures, but in the God of the Scriptures, who is the one true God who can convert people who seek only the truth and follow it."

Food for thought.

I would add only this, as we are hearing daily of the effects of the Israeli blockage of the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the suffering this is bringing to the people living there - that Mary's song still applies today - that God is a God "who fills the hungry with good things. Pray for and work for a just and lasting peace for this area of God's world and for all of God's people. Roger

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Walls of Jerusalem

"We are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." My visit to the Holy Land over the new year was fascinating. There is much to see, much to learn. And one can walk around her walls in little over an hour.

The picture above is of two of the most important places, the "Dome of the Rock" for Muslims because it recalls the place where the prophet Mohammad was carried to and from heaven in a vision, and for Jews because the wall beneath this plateau is the one remaining part of the original temple complex build by Solomon and restored by Herod. The blue and white flag of the state of Israel announces to all that Israel controls the city now and has for forty years, but allows access by Muslims and Christians to their holy places.

I also visit Bethlehem for a concert by two choirs from Illinois who sang carrols at the Lutheran "Christmas" Church there. The Rev. Julie Rowe was my guide and as we road the bus from the Israeli controlled territory to the west bank area controlled by the Palestinians we were confrounted with a tall concrete wall. On it someone has written: "Ich bin ein Berliner", recalling another wall that divided peoples. Julie had many stories about the building of a wall between territory that Israel seeks to incorporate, land which Palestinian Arabs and Christians own and wish to continue farming. The Israeli argument is that this is for their security. However, by preventing the movement of Arab Palestinians to their means of livelihood and moving settlers on to this land, the effect is to "appropriate" this land. You can learn more about this by searching out Julie's web pages and information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

I dined with Pastor Mark Holman and his family following the worship service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, which is located close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which I will discuss in my next blog. The second picture was taken from the grounds of the Augusta Victoria Hospital and looks out toward the Dead Sea. He had taken me there and pointed out that the walls being constructed by the Israelis often separate the places where arabs live from where they work. I have tried to show this by two black arrows. I show this so that you will be aware of some of the dynamics going on. Our Lutheran Church is there to help us to do just that (to help us understand). More later. Happy Epiphany!