Print

Page 3 of 4

image Click for more images

In 1990, the city was blessed with a second miracle. The night before going into surgery for breast cancer, a local Coptic woman, Samia Yousef Basilious, went to the city’s Mar Bishoi Church to pray in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary. When she emerged from the operating room the next day, her cancer was gone and the bloodstains on her bandages appeared as a series of crosses.

Later, priests at Mar Bishoi discovered that the same icon of the Virgin wept oil. The tears did not stop for several weeks, and the priests had to attach plastic bags to the bottom of the picture frame to catch them all. Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III declared the event a miracle, and it has returned every year since. Each year on the anniversary of Ms. Basilious’s recovery, the original icon — as well as a second one that has also been hung in the church — has wept oil for several weeks at a time.

The miracle at Mar Bishoi is a major point of pride for Port Said’s Christian community, and pilgrims from across Egypt travel there every year to witness the event and to be blessed by the oil.

“Port Said is a Mediterranean city, and people from all over hear about the miracle that occurred here and they come to us,” he says. “Last year a group from Sweden came to see the miracle, and just the other day I received an email from them asking if the oil came again this year.”

One morning last winter, entire families gathered under the bright banners and flags in the church’s courtyard to pray and to be blessed by the oil. As children played nearby, their parents sat in quiet contemplation and reflected on the meaning of the miracle for themselves and their community.

“It’s a sign from our Lord Jesus,” says Nagi Saad, a middle-aged man who was born in Port Said. His family returned from the evacuation in 1972. “He is sending us a clear message: I am here, I am alive and I am in your community. I won’t forget you and I will never leave you.”

The city’s Christian charities have made a similar promise to the entire city, Christian and Muslim.

The Ave Mina Hospital sits on the edge of town in the working-class district of El Amine, across from an empty lot where battered white minibuses unload a few passengers every now and then. For the last 20 years, the hospital has treated anyone who walked through its doors, says its supervisor, Sister Marina, at an average of 2,000 patients each month.

“We provide our services cheaply,” says Sister Marina, noting that most procedures cost just $1.80, though “some people don’t even pay that much, if they can’t afford it.”

Most of the patients are poor Muslims from the neighborhood, she says, because “we are working here for everyone.”

The area’s Muslim population appears to have given the hospital a major vote of confidence. Most of the women walking its halls are veiled, and many of the men wear their beards in the long style of observant Muslims. They come for checkups, minor operations and obstetric care.

Many of its nurses are veiled as well. The head nurse, Reda Abdel al Muhammad, says that as a Muslim she sees no difference between working in a Christian hospital and working in one run by a Muslim group.

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |


Tags: Egypt Muslim Coptic Orthodox Church Economic hardships Religious Diversity