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“I feel sad that there are no activities at the place,” he says. “I have spent all my life here.”

But where many might see a dusty conference center, Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim of Minya sees opportunity.

In his vision, the future of the Coptic Catholic Church begins with youth formation. The bishop believes that Salama Nashed Center is the best place to continue this mission — a site for education, training and community-building activities, much as those it once hosted.

Originally a hotel, the building’s previous owner was a Coptic lawyer named Salama Nashed. He donated it to the Catholic Church in the beginning of the 1980’s. As a sign of gratitude, the center was named after him.

In the years after, it was constantly busy with conferences and seminars.

After his own ordination in the 1980’s, Bishop Botros spent five

years organizing seminars and conferences in the center — especially during the busy summer months, when the center would host retreats and longer seminars.

“This house was part of my life,” Bishop Botros says.

In the years since his work there, it slowly deteriorated and fell out of use. Amid the political upheaval of 2011, it briefly ceased to operate altogether — and then again after terrorists staged a major attack on a bus transporting Copts in Minya in 2017, killing dozens.

When he was named bishop, he went to visit the center. When he saw its decrepit condition, he could not hold back his tears.

“Most of the events are usually held in the summer, and as you can see there is no air conditioning,” says Marco Eisa, 27, the manager of the center. “That makes it very difficult to host such numbers in the summer.”

He walks through the conference halls, taking stock of the work ahead. “There is no sound system; the kitchen is not equipped; we have too few blankets.” Only one of the three halls, which can accommodate 200 guests, is currently usable.

Bishop Botros began renovating the center about a year and a half ago with what resources he could allocate. Restoration has come a long way — the bedrooms are more comfortable, and the bathrooms function.

But much work remains to restore the luster he so fondly remembers.

“A lot of people met each other and became friends at this place,” he says. Soon, he knows, it will serve a new generation in the same way.

And the hope that has already taken root will continue to grow.

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Based in Cairo, Magdy Samaan is a Middle East correspondent for the The Telegraph. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy and a number of other journals.

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