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Youth leader Hany Isa assists a Coptic Orthodox parish in one of the larger impoverished districts on the outskirts of Cairo. Hany says his parish and its young people lack financial resources; there simply isn’t enough money to support youth activities. He and his parish priest are trying to develop a “buddy system” where the older, more mature and devoted Christians look after the younger ones, thereby creating their own support system.

In spite of this work, conversions in Egypt from Christianity to Islam do occur, particularly in the more remote areas. This may happen for a number of reasons. Often, people may have little knowledge of their own faith and see minimal differences between the two. Others feel that converting to the country majority religion will help them economically. Still others, particularly adolescent Christian girls, may establish relationships with Muslim boys. Young Copts might even seek a means of escape from domestic family problems by converting.

Drug addiction is another problem among the Christian youth of Egypt, but the percentage of those involved with drugs is not very high. This may be the result of the church emphasis on the education of its youth. Youth workers like Zakary and Hany say if they are aware of someone struggling with drug problems, they usually speak with the parish priest, who can best handle the situation pastorally. If the problem is serious, they refer the youth to Best Life, a Coptic drug rehabilitation program that received its start-up funding from CNEWA.

Despite the nearly 400 youth meetings held each week in Cairo, there are some young Egyptians who are unable to meet for Christian fellowship. Marianne, a student of Spanish literature at Ain Shams University in Cairo, is one of these youths. In spite of missing the meetings, however, she would not miss the opportunity to hear the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, speak at his weekly Wednesday night meetings.

A slender 19-year-old, Marianne waits along with several hundred Egyptians for the program to begin inside the cavernous Cathedral of St. Mark. Marianne says she loves the simple yet profound way Pope Shenouda presents the Scriptures and applies them to everyday life; the “passages about Jesus,” she adds, “really come alive when he speaks.”

Amba Moussa says Pope Shenouda preachings reinforce the teaching of Egypt Coptic youth.

“He always speaks in a very practical and everyday manner,” says the Bishop. “He not just speaking about theology or of complex theories. Instead, he incorporates parables, stories and analogies into his talks. He a beloved preacher.”

No matter how Egypt Christian youth fulfill their religious relationships, many concur with their parents that these youth meetings are the church best offer for Egypt young Christians.

“Youth meetings bring young people closer to God, to the church and to each other,” says parent Suzanne Issak. “We need more of them.”

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Dale Gavlak is a freelance writer. She lives in Cairo.

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Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church