EGYPT: Muslim and Christian students connect
Salesian oratory in Alexandria provides a space for meeting
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian oratory in Alexandria, Egypt, is attended by many youth, most of whom are Muslims. Many of the staff and volunteers who work with youth there are also Muslim. The oratory has become a place where Muslims and Christians come together to connect with their peers and participate in activities organized by the Salesians.
During a recent visit to Salesian communities in Egypt, Father Alfred Maravilla, general councilor for missions, met with staff at the Salesian oratory. Fr. Maravilla urged them to treasure the universal and human values they learn in the oratory. He said, “Today in the world many consider anyone different from themselves as a threat. Instead, here in the oratory, you show that difference lived with respect and friendship can become an enrichment for everyone.” He also encouraged Salesians to continue making the oratory a true place where fraternity is built.
Salesian missionaries have been working in Egypt for more than 120 years. Primary and secondary education, high-quality vocational and technical schools, and youth centers are accessed by both Muslim and Christian youth, as well as refugees in need of services.
The Salesian House in Alexandria was founded in 1896 by Father Rua to provide education to the many Italian migrants who lived there. Today, the Don Bosco School in Alexandria educates close to 900 students, mostly Muslim, in classes ranging from primary school to vocational training. The courtyards and playgrounds of the Salesian House are filled with students after school who connect with their peers in a safe and supportive environment. The institute is recognized, and partially funded, by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Salesian programs across Egypt provide education and social development services for youth and their families living in poverty,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth, regardless of faith and religious background, are able to access the Salesian program and gain assistance with homework, connect with their peers, and be connected with adults who provide mentorship and support in their lives.”
According to the World Bank, 26 percent of Egypt’s population lives in poverty while 49 percent of those living in Upper Egypt cannot provide for their basic needs of food and shelter. For the nearly third of Egyptians living in poverty, and the millions more in poor conditions, the country’s current economic difficulty means life is much harder with many struggling to put food on the table.
The country has witnessed significant political and economic changes since 2011. Through this transition, which includes periods of political unrest, the main income sources of the economy have been negatively impacted, particularly in the tourism sector, as well as revenues from the Suez Canal, oil and remittances from Egyptians working abroad.
Despite visible progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Egypt has not reached the anticipated targets for poverty reduction, environmental protection and gender equity. Egypt is still working on issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
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Salesian Missions – Egypt
World Bank – Egypt