Tahrir Church Pastor: 'Future of Egypt Is the Truth'

Reporter's View From Cairo: Church Serves as Hospital During Revolution

Walking the two blocks from our hotel to attend a Sunday night service at Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church I see a glimpse of Cairo on edge.

The same street leading to the church takes you to Tahrir Square, a block away, the site of Egypt's revolution. The street also leads to the Parliament building entrance just a half block away. The surrounding area has been the scene of days of protests and clashes with military and police which began after the death of 74 people at a football (soccer) match in Port Said on Feb. 1.

Cars are double and triple parked in every direction. Graffiti laced with expletives mark fences and structures. Toward the square, the street branches to reveal at least a dozen ambulances parked side by side.

People are walking at a brisk pace, in a hurry to move to either one end of the street or the other. One direction leads to a busy downtown street that runs next to the Nile river, the other direction leads to the government buildings and the square.

Our media group of three journalists from different news companies, the team leader from the sponsoring international Christian persecution ministry, and his wife, have no other choice but to stay close to our escort who along with everyone else is walking fast, too.

We arrive to the back entrance of Kasr El Dobara, a church built in the early 1950s that seats up to 1,500 people.

Ushers here have double duty. They must serve as security guards as well, making sure that everyone that enters the building is known to someone at the church.

Before we attend the service we talk to the volunteer coordinator of the church's triage hospital located inside a courtyard located at the entrance. We learn that since last November, Kasr El Dobara has also been known as Tahrir Church, an officially recognized field hospital accepting anyone injured as the result of the violent protests that have been going on since November.

The volunteer coordinator is a remarkable woman who says she wears "many hats" while guiding 200 volunteers. Muslim and Christian doctors and nurses work side by side each night as the inevitable wounded are received as patients.

We hear stories of Muslims attending a volunteer appreciation service inside the church and being truly moved by God. When the church's pastor, Sameh Maurice, asked those in attendance who among them were not members of the church, more than two-thirds of the people raised their hands.

The coordinator told us that Maurice has viewed the revolution as a ministry opportunity for the church. The ministry began with cleaning debris from Tahrir Square.

Shortly after the ministry began there was something even deeper going on between church member volunteers and the community. Kasr El Dobara was the first place to offer grief counseling to families who had lost loved ones during the revolution.

"We have a very outgoing pastor who always thinks outside the [church] walls," she said. "One of our main things as a team is to go out on 'love outreaches' mainly to Muslim people. We share the love of the Lord and try and take care of their physical needs."

In a move that seems unfathomable, we learn that the church also opened up its courtyard for Muslims to come and wash before their traditional daily prayers. A nearby mosque could not handle the overflow from the crowds at Tahrir Square.

"Utopia," as some had expected after the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Jan. 25, 2011, has not come, said the volunteer leader. Because of this reality, the church is serving as a place of solace, she explained.

During a severe clash between protesters and the police and military last November, the church began its triage operation. Three days before the violence, Maurice and some church members were praying about how to outreach better into the community.

Now, the church's courtyard has fully operational hospital equipment and supplies, and a dozen bed stations. After church service this night and the next evening's prayer service, I witness injured youth being brought into the courtyard hospital.

The injuries are mostly to the eyes of young men in their teens and twenties as the result of thrown debris, and in at least one case, injuries to the back because of gunshot pellets.

I talk to a young Muslim nurse's aide who said that it was her second night volunteering at the church. In near perfect English she said that she had "like a near nervous breakdown" from the stress of serving as a medical assistant inside Tahrir Square. She decided to help at the church instead.

I asked her how she was feeling now and she said, "I feel calmer now. Of course, I am in a place of God."

During Monday's prayer service Maurice gave a powerful message that we were able to hear translated through ear phones. He talked about Egypt's ongoing violence and the political unrest. He talked about how a seemingly endless stream of political committees was forming on top of other committees and nothing was being resolved.

He echoed the sentiment of the other Christian leaders we met with during our visit. Egypt's problems will not be solved by politicians. It will take a movement of God to make real progress.

He concluded by saying that "the future of Egypt is the truth."

I see no other way.

This story is the last of a three-part series based on the reporter's recent week-long visit to Cairo, Egypt. Click on story headline to read: "Reporter's View From Cairo: Maybe Our Prayers Were Not Enough" and "Christian Revival in Egypt Includes Revolution Story."

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