The Church of Alexandria
Hearing the Voice of God in Africa Faith and fervor uplift the church of Alexandria by Don Duncan
anal Malek Abdo professes a dynamic experience of faith — faith lived through
deeds. “All of my actions say I am a Christian, that I follow Christ’s way,” she says, sitting in her living room in central Egypt. “From Christianity, I learned how to live by example and to love others through my work.” For thousands of years, ethnic Christians — or Copts — have formed a major constituency of the Church of Alexandria, which in Africa includes a number of other Eastern churches, Catholic and Orthodox. For centuries, relations among these Christian communities have been rocky, even hostile. And while leaders are working together to strengthen the bonds of unity, Catholic Copts in villages say they feel more uneasy with their Orthodox Copt brethren than with their Muslim neighbors. In Izbet
Chokor, a village near the city of El Faiyum some 60 miles southwest of Cairo, one Catholic, Mrs. Abdo, builds bridges to strengthen the two sister churches. The youngest of seven children born to a family in El Faiyum, she began her faith formation in the Orthodox tradition. She attended a Coptic school, and credits her family with instilling both a strong connection to their parish and an active inner life. “What I learned from my parents,” she says, “was to listen for God’s voice everywhere, regardless of where that might be.” This lesson would inform one of the most important decisions in her life when, at age 24, she married her beloved, Ramsis — a Catholic Copt. “We first met at a clinic near my work,” she says. Her future husband had accompanied his sister to have her infant son inoculated. “I was teaching in a school; he was
p Manal Malek Abdo lives in Izbet Chokor, an Egyptian village. t Christians celebrate Meskel, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the Ethiopian Church.
working three doors down from the school.” Some had objected to their marriage, which also led to Manal’s reception into the Catholic Church. Although saddened by the controversy surrounding the marriage, she took comfort in her family’s support. “My father had no problem whatsoever with the marriage and becoming Catholic. He said: ‘Do as you feel.’ We prayed and we looked for a sign that it would all be fine.” Listening for God’s voice and looking for signs would help her through the difficult times that followed her marriage as well, especially when her infant daughter died suddenly.
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)