Diocesan Community Development as a part of God's Mission
Date added: 20/04/2016
The Diocese of Egypt with North of Africa and the Horn of Africa
Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion
Diocesan Community Developmentas a part of God's Mission
, Prepared by: Rev. Dr. Emad N. Basilios
Teacher on Misison, Alexandrian School of Theology
Spring 2016, Cairo, Egypt
Table of Contents
B- History of Community Development in the Anglican Church of Egypt
C- The Context in Egypt Today
D- Examples of Diocesan Anglican Social Centers
E- Challenges facing Community Development in Egypt
I moved to be the pastor of St. Athanasius's, Ain Shams, Cairo, after three years of being the assistant priest in the Anglican Church in Heliopolis, which is located in one of the wealthiest districts of Cairo. The two churches were different in every respect, nature of the community, the wealth of people and the church. As the one in Heliopolis had walls and beautiful garden, the one in Ain Shams don't. It is just a flat in a building with no garden, extra space or walls.
It began as a social center to support and develop the community, located in one of the poorest areas of Cairo.
After several years of serving in community development, a congregation began to form that desired to receive not only social, but spiritual enrichment. After starting to pastor the church, I said to Bishop Mouneer," The social center with the church, are like a “mission station” with high potential and opportunity. Normally churches try to go to reach out to people, but in this mission station” people are coming continually."
In this paper, I want to give some attention to the theology behind community development mission. I need more answers about why we do social work as a genuine part of our mission. I want to uncover when and what motivates us to do this. Is this considered a “mission” in itself or just a means to evangelize people? Is this a temporary approach related to the present leadership in the church, and therefore later cease or be ignored? What are the challenges and opportunities for this type of mission? And, finally who is able to answer such questions?
I decided to interview Archbishop Mouneer, Bishop of our diocese, and then Dr. Maged Mousa the General Director of EpiscoCare, Diocesan entity overseeing community development. I will review some key texts on mission to propose a biblical, theological and historical foundation for the community development mission.
A- Theology of community development mission
We have to use our two eyes: one eye we focus on theology, and how we understand the mission God has given us, and the other eye we have open to the needs of the community around us.
The church exists for the mission of God, as C. Wright put it "It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has the church for His mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission-God's mission". The mission that the church has to do is not hers it is God's one, accordingly it must be lead and directed as God instructed us to do it. As it was stated in Lausanne covenant, ”World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world." we are not free to pick what we like and leave what we don't like. God entrusted us to His mission; the whole mission of the whole bible. This mission is to be done through all the church, lay and ordained, men and women, wherever they live, in the North or in the South.
Theologically, we do not understand mission from a few verses of the Bible, as David Bosch said, "I am not saying that these procedures are illegitimate. They undoubtedly have their value. But their contribution towards establishing the validity of the missionary mandate is minimal. This validity should not be deduced from isolated texts and detached incidents, but only from the thrust of the central message of both Old and New Testaments." We need to see our mandate as spanning the Old and New testaments.
We obtain our understanding of mission from creation to new creation. We draw our theology from the entire bible, in which we see God is sharing His existence, love and power in His creation. He wanted this excellent, harmonious, and loving creation to reveal himself, but as we failed and became separated from the very source of our life, He worked to restore humanity and all the creation to its purpose. He chose Abraham to be a blessing for all nations. He delivered his oppressed people from Egypt and gave them the law, so that they could be a model nation, following God and for the values of love, compassion, and mercy. "There is continuity between the reign of God, the mission of the church, and justice, peace, and wholeness in society, and that salvation also has to do with what happens to people in this world." He insisted in fulfilling His mission for the universe throughout salvation history. We believe that we have a mission of proclaiming God's glory to all His creation. We believe we have a mission of working and caring of the creation, the environment and the resources of the earth. We believe we have a mission of justice and mercy for the weak, poor and “voiceless” people. We believe we have a mission of proclaiming the good news of salvation and restoration, through the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that Christ will come again to bring about the final and complete restoration through a new heaven and new earth. These are the main aspects that form our understanding of the mission of the church, until Christ comes again. In the ministry of Jesus, we can easily see a Person not only interested in preaching, but also in releasing the oppressed, embracing the marginalized and helping the poor and needy. This also can be seen in the first church when taking care of the poor was part of that church activity.
B- History of Community Development in the Anglican church of Egypt
This way of doing mission started when the missionaries first came to Egypt. They recognized the importance of working in community development as a way of building bridges or in the words of Archbishop Mouneer "they created meeting points with the community, and these meeting points are community development centers, clinics, schools and others. This was very early in the 19th century" as a result of this attitude, we have in our diocese, more community services centers than church buildings. This enables the church to work outside the church walls and help people practically. Educating them and their children opens the doors for the church to share Christ. This is one way the church is doing mission, the holistic mission, in which the church meets both the physical and spiritual needs of people. This is very similar to the "Good Samaritan" parable; this parable was given as an answer to the question: who is my neighbor? The church is being the Good Samaritan, and the community is very much appreciating what the Anglican Church is doing. When we see the eagerness of parents to put their children into Anglican schools and nurseries, we consider this as measurement of how the community recognizes our community development efforts.
We try to make our standards of community services very high. The number of people benefitting from these activities is another way of measuring the success of this mission. This is recognized both in Anglican and Catholic Church in Egypt. This is not only done in Egypt but in other places as well, in the North of Africa, Lebanon, and Jerusalem. Although the Anglican Church is not a big church in Egypt, its community service is widely recognized. These services are unconditionally offered to people, we do not obligate people to become Christians or to be members of our church in order to benefit from our services. Sometimes, when people receive this way of showing Christ's love they come and ask if they can join us. On the other hand, we are not doing a mere social service. We show the love and care of our Lord to the people in need. We have a spiritual dimension in doing community development. For this reason training and sharing our vision with the workers in these institutions is very important so that the services are provided in a professional and missional way fulfilling our holistic mission.
C- The Context in Egypt today
Egypt is a developing country in the Middle East. Its population is the largest of the Arab countries. Its population is more than 90 million (2016's figures) with the following age-group percentages:
0-4 years (preschool age) 11.2%,
4-19 (school age) 29.3%,
This shows that more than 60% are under the age of 30.
The unemployment rate based on 15 years and over is 10% for males, 25% for females averaging 13.4%
GDP by Factor Cost & percentage distribution by economic activity for Education Health& Social Services is 3.8%
Poverty ratio is 26.3%
Illiteracy rate, 25.9%
Most of the population is Muslims. The Christian minority in Egypt, mostly Coptic Orthodox, is the largest in the Middle East estimated to be 6-20%, but no official statistics from the state regarding religion groups.
In the face of these problems, the state seems to be in need for any kind of help and the need for the church to be involved in community development. There is a great shortage in health care, education, literacy classes, supporting the employment that the government provides
In addition, the problem of Fundamentalism and separation between Muslims and Christians, has greatly affected the Christians in direct mission, building churches and even to have normal and good relations with Muslims.
We are not just driven by the social needs, but it is part of our vision and mission. In our mission we commit ourselves to the mission in the world. In our vision, we decided to serve our neighbors in Christ's name and to dialogue with other faith communities. We consider that being in this part of the world is a privilege and a mission given to us by God. To be present amongst Muslims is a chance to show them the love of Christ. We believe that we are here to proclaim Jesus's love and to be light and salt to our community. Being light and salt cannot be done only by preaching, but as we understand the mission of God, it is a way of life in which we live as a living gospel, loving and helping any one that needs help. We are motivated to be Christ's healing hand, His heart of compassion, His ears to hear the cry of the oppressed and His voice for justice, love and peace.
Working in the community development is part of our mission. This is the way we understand mission, this is one way we understand the Gospel of restoration of God's wonderful creation.
D- Example of Diocesan Anglican Social Centers
In order for the diocese to sustain the community development mission, we founded Episco Care, as “the hand of the Good Samaritan.” EpiscoCare is an NGO which aims to promote sustainable development and address poverty. Their vision is to provide better life opportunities for the poorest and most marginalized communities in Egypt.
EpiscoCare runs community development centres, which are located in the following places: Ain Shams, Boulaq, Medinet el Salam, Giza Tawabek, and Ezbet el Nakhl in Cairo, El Ras el Soda in Alexandria and Menouf, middle Delta.
EpiscoCare runs the following capacity building programs in each of their centres:
Education and Awareness
Early Childhood Education
Women and Motherhood
EpiscoCare also administers Refuge Egypt, the Episcopal Training Centre, the Menara Centre for Special Needs Children, the Menouf Community Service Centre, and the Arkan Culture Centre. This paper will focus on giving more insight on education and social centers programs.
Education is an important part of community development activities, because there is a great shortage in this area. We also recognize the role that education plays in developing the community. The problem that affects and is the greatest challenge in Egypt is Education. We are unable to change the state strategy for Education, but we can present good models, and graduate better persons, not in knowledge, but in the ability to think and accept different perspectives. In order to have a significant impact, we need to concentrate on building new schools in different areas of the country. Better education will give rise to better people, better country leaders and even better church leaders. Dr. Maged dreams of havinge at least twenty schools in different places in Egypt. He says, "This way we can make an effective role in transforming the community consciousness."
B- Social centers
Social centers are in various cities in the diocese of Egypt and have the following programs
1- Economic Development includes small loans for needy families often where the father is not working or not present at all. The loan becomes a means to producing an income. The majority of those receiving a loan are Muslims. They take a loan, and for example, if they are illiterate they join the literacy class; they can then learn some handcraft skills and their children come to the education classes. By doing this, we do not threaten them through direct evangelism, but by dealing with the social center and engaging with a Christian institution, they discover that most of what they know about Christians is wrong. Our social centers have provided about 5000 loans and have contact with 5000 families, a total of around 20000-25000 individuals in the last 5 years only.
2- Education programs are for helping the poor to benefit from extra private classes, a widespread need in Egypt due to high school class density.
3- Illiteracy classes that enables illiterate persons, predominately women to read, write and do simple calculations in order to be able to manage their small projects. They have to pass exams run by the government, and get official certificates. Christians become able to read the Bible themselves and share more in church services and helps building bridges between Muslims and the church. It helps to decrease the tension between Muslims and Christians and reduce religious violence.
4- Awareness lectures are given on regular bases. They cover many areas including; health care, environment issues, raising children, marriage issues, accepting other people who are different, communication skills and many other issues according to the needs in each area.
5- Handcraft classes are for mainly women as they have the higher unemployment ratio in Egypt. Sometimes those women are single mothers and have to take care of their children so cannot take up ordinary employment, but by learning to do handcrafts, they can earn money working at home.
6- Small clinics with visitor specialists to provide medical examination and follow up for pregnant women or chronic cases are very cheap and give very good service.
7-Nurseries provide a safe place for Muslim and Christian children of workings women to stay and play together for a long time. They are taught the values of love, acceptance, forgiveness and many of the Christian values of love and peace. This is a very effective way of growing new generations with values that replace hatred, violence and rejection.
These are only some examples of how community development works in the areas of great need, illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and education. The most important aspect is that it builds bridges between the church and the community. It also works on the spirit of fundamentalism and religion tension. It provides a good soil for acceptance of others. It makes Muslims see the church not as an enemy of offence, but a hand and heart of a Good Samaritan. This may be as important as the churches’ involvement in interfaith dialogue, in which the Anglican Church is very active member in both initiating and maintaining the dialogue. But as the dialogue goes on the leadership level of Churches and Al Azhar, the true work at the grassroots is done by normal Christian workers at social centers with ordinary Muslims. Muslims also work in social development, but this is provided mainly for Muslims. Anglican and Roman Catholic centers are very open and the majority of people that benefit from these services are Muslims.
Social centers are not the only method of community development. We also have Refugee ministries. Egypt has received thousands of refugees from Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya. They need place to stay, work and to get their children educated. We established social center for Sudanese and many schools to teach the Sudanese curriculum. In many of our churches, there are Sudanese services and centers for helping new arrivals.
We also help people with special needs. We have a deaf unit to teach the deaf and help them become part of the working community. "The Vocational Training Centre aims to provide technical skills to deaf adults, so that they can find employment and support themselves and their families. The center opened in 1998 on the grounds of the Deaf Unit in Old Cairo. In January 2013 the center moved to a new building in 6th of October City, on the outskirts of Cairo. Currently, the center has production and training workshops for metalwork, woodwork and sewing. The aim of the new center is that it will also provide vocational training courses and job coaching to empower deaf adults to find employment."
In Egypt, a lack of understanding of developmental disabilities means that children with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome and other special needs are often kept at home and their education is ignored. For families in rural areas of Egypt who have a child with a mental disability, there are few resources available to support them to bringing up their child. Special needs also carries negative stigma, and parents can often feel isolated and unsure of what their child needs. The Menara (“Lighthouse”) Centre, located in Menouf in the Nile Delta, offers a safe and cheerful environment for 50 special needs children to learn and gain life skills. While providing both teaching and physical therapy for the students, the school also works to inform the parents of how to care for their children and realize their full potential.
E- Challenges facing us in this mission
Firstly, the state requires us to have a place and license. In the current economic situation, renting or building a place is not an easy, and sometimes obtaining a license can be very hard. We want to spread our community development to places where the primary life needs are not provided, but the most remote places are the neediest, and the most fanatic and fundamental. When the people know that a church organization wants to have a place to help them, no one dares to rent or sell a place for a church. Our motives are always questioned, although many appreciate our efforts, but some do not. This makes it difficult to get a place or a license for social work. The officials always think we have a hidden agenda. They are afraid that there is danger in letting the church help the people. It seems that the government believes in the power and impact of social development and contact with people.
Secondly, the financial challenge, for establishing a social center and running it, requires a lot of money, especially for a small church. The shortage of money keeps us from expanding to more needy areas. We do not have any institutions in Upper Egypt, though the need there is greater than in Cairo. Fundamentalism is more prevalent in Upper Egypt than in Cairo and Alexandria. Money is a big challenge and it keeps us from moving on to build more schools, more hospitals and clinics, more social centers and more programs provided for disabled people. In the words of Dr. Maged, the General Manager of Episco-Care, " If we have money, we would have more schools, I dream of having at least twenty schools, mostly in very poor areas. I hope we can have more hospitals in Cairo and the main cities. I would also have more programs for youth."
Thirdly, the challenge of finding good workers with a heart for people and training them is not always easy. Perhaps the key is to find those workers who believe in community development mission. Training in both the professional work and the Christian values and mission is very costly and to be both workers and missionaries is not easy, because we believe we should provide the best quality services that we can. We aim to give the love of Christ to everyone with whom we are engaged.
An Alexandria School of Theology graduate, who is now a pastor of a Pentecostal church in Cairo, related to us in a postgraduate mission conference a conversation between him and a Muslim friend. His friend said, "We hear that you do bad things in churches, for this reason your churches have such a very high walls" He replied "No, it is not true at all, we have these high walls to protect us from being stoned all the time", then the wise Muslim friend said, "No you are wrong, you don't have the walls because of the stones, you have the stones because of the walls". This can summarize the situation in Egypt. As the church enclosed itself and built walls of fear, selfishness, ignorance and carelessness about the needs outside, it failed to reach out and do its mission. We need churches without walls church that build bridges with the community. We need a brave church to help the needy and defend the oppressed. A church that believes stones, persecution or even martyrdom can't prevent her from being the Good Samaritan for the wounded and wounding world.
A church that is truly in the world and work with God for transforming it.
The Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa is part of the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church, and a member of the Anglican Communion. We uphold the faith once delivered to the Saints and seek to grow together in love of God and our neighbors, rooted in Scripture, maturing in Christ, committing ourselves to mission in the world in the power of the Spirit.
To reach the unreached with the Gospel of Christ
To grow Christ’s church by making disciples and equipping leaders
To serve our neighbors in Christ’s name
To work for unity among all Christians, and
To dialogue with other faith communities
1- The mission of God, Christopher J. H. Wright. USA
3- Bosch David, 'Hermeneutical principles in the Biblical foundation for mission' Evangelical review of Theology 17 (1993), pp439-40, as quoted in "the mission of God"
4- Egypt in Figures 2014, March 2014, Cairo, Egypt.
5- Bosch David Jacobus, "Transforming mission: paradigms shifts in theology of mission" Orbis Books, New York, 1991.
7- The official website of the diocese. www.dioceseofegypt.org
8- The interview with Dr. Maged Mousa, on Thursday 31st of March, Cairo, Egypt.
9- the interview with the wright reverent, Archbishop Mouneer H. Anis, the bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and the archbishop of the middle east and Jerusalem province, on 17th of March 2016, Cairo, Egypt.
- The mission of God, Christopher J. H. Wright. P62
- Bosch, 'Hermeneutical principal', pp439-40
- Bosch, 'Transforming mission' pp8
-the interview with Bishop Mouneer H. Anis.
- The gospel of Luke10: 25-37
- all population statistics are from the government proclaimed figures, Egypt in Figures 2014, March 2014, Cairo, Egypt. Note; these figures that reflects the situation and problems in Egypt are very much smaller than the actual figures as the government tries to ignore or even cover the real ones.
- Ibid, p40
- Ibid, P85. This figure shows that about 4% only of economy is directed to social services including health care and Education.
- The vision and mission statements are presented in the appendix
- The interview with Dr. Maged Mousa.
- All information about the activities and numbers of the social centers are driven from Dr. Maged Mosa, the general director of "Episco care" our community development institution.
- The diocese's website
- The diocese's website
- The interview with Dr. Maged Mousa.