Jule Koch | Oct 24, 2013

On October 21, Rev. Atef Sedhom Kalaf, Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church of Egypt, was the guest speaker at a special breakfast at Bethel Pentecostal Church in Kaladar that was attended by members of several local churches.

Rev. Atef was invited to Canada by the Wesleyan Standard Church to speak at a missions conference that will take place next weekend at the Roblin Wesleyan Church, on October 25 & 26, and to share with churches in the US and Canada how the church in Egypt is faring during the recent violence and upheavals in the country.

In Kaladar, while he spoke of the many difficulties faced by the Egyptian church, Rev. Atef's message was very positive. Out of Egypt's population of 90 million, approximately 15 million are Christians. Speaking through an interpreter, Rev. Atef said that in the past the goal of extremist Muslims has been to exterminate the Christian church in Egypt, to force them to either convert or die, but that has not happened.

He acknowledged that recent violence has been great. For example, just last Sunday a Christian wedding was targeted by a terrorist attack and many people were injured and killed. Also, eighty-five churches have been burned down in the past few years.

However, the attacks have been met by a spirit of non-retaliation that has caused the Egyptian media to take notice. Large posters were made by the members of the destroyed churches proclaiming, "You burn our churches but Jesus tells us to love you." Rev. Atef said that the churches also became hospitals in which doctors and nurses ministered to everyone, regardless of whether they were Christian or Muslim. The violence has also produced great unity in the churches, which in the past were scattered. However, now for the first time they are all working together, and especially, praying together in extended night-long vigils.

Rev. Atef said that approximately a million Egyptian Muslims have left Islam because of the extremist violence and turned to Christianity, and that the new converts are not afraid. Normally converts face dire consequences and they usually change their names to downplay the fact that they have converted, but the new converts have not only kept their names but have publicized them on the internet.

Rev Atef stressed that extremists only comprise about 10% of the population; the vast majority of Egyptian Muslims try to get along with Christians and many are helping to rebuild the churches. The military is also helping in the rebuilding.

When asked by a member of the audience if the crisis is over, Rev Atef replied that they foresee about five more years of hard times before things settle down.

As the Egyptian church is a minority it has very limited infrastructure. Presently, churches have to spend a lot of money to rent space for events, and often cannot afford to hold them. Rev. Atef shared that one of his dreams is to build a ministry, conference and training centre to serve all the churches in the country.

Rev. Atef's address was ably interpreted by Yousef Al Sarras, a young man originally from Palestine who now lives in Tweed. Yousef's father, Nabil, and his mother Lourice, who recently moved to Tweed to live with him, also attended the breakfast and helped with the interpreting.

During his visit to Canada, Rev. Atef is being hosted by Rev. Vernon Scott of the Arden & Community Wesleyan Church, who has made eight missions trips to Egypt. The first was in 1985 and it was on that trip that he first met Atef, who was then a young student minister.

Over the years Scott has seen many changes and improvements in Egypt, especially in their agricultural and working methods. In spite of the darkness in the present days, both he and Rev. Atef are hopeful for a brighter future for Egypt

For more information call Rev. Vernon Scott at 613-335-3772.

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