Christmas wishes 2019 and a call for peace and compassion

Sent On: 
Thu, 2019-12-26
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With Christmas we wish each other peace. Pope Francis said on Christmas eve that "Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us. To me, to you, to each of us, he says today: 'I love you and I will always love you, for you are precious in my eyes.'" The message is clear: each human being is precious, also those whom we believe to be extremists. This does not condone their beliefs or actions, but this means we should make efforts to bring people to a path of non-violence and acceptance that we are all different in beliefs and convictions. That is not easy when we are dealing with someone like Brenton Tarrant, charged with 51 murders in the Christchurch mosque shootings earlier this year. Yet, God also loves Brenton Tarrant, even though he committed a horrible crime.  


On Christmas day Pope Francis gave his annual Urbi et Orbi (for the city and the word) speech in which he addressed the suffering of the people in Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen and other countries with political and social conflicts which have made many thousands of people to flee.


Pope Francis and King Willem-Alexander


King Willem-Alexander in the Netherlands focused in his Christmas speech in freedom which requires tolerance for people with different beliefs. “If we start the threaten people with a different opinion, we precisely undermine what is so dear to us,” he said in reference to freedom.


In the Middle East large numbers of people argue that the values of (their) religion need to be defended. In Western countries most people argue that personal freedoms need to be defended. Whatever you want to defend, important is to take the following quote from the Qur’an into consideration “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind One People: but they will not cease to be diverse” (Surah Hūd 11:118). See also the interview with Prof. Abdallah Schleifer in which he referred to the importance of this verse.


Let us all be peacemakers. Kenyan professor and pastor Dr. Sammy Muthuka spoke in Cairo about peace building, in particular for Africans, many of who are divided by tribal divisions and deep mistrust of others belonging to a different tribe in the same country. Intern Dylan Shexnaydre made a report about two of his lectures. Please find this here.


I most appreciate Muslim wishes for Christians and Christians wishing Muslims well for their feasts. Last summer Italian-Egyptian student Weam Nafea interned with us and wrote on December 24: “I am writing you this e-mail to wish a Merry Christmas to you, Sir, and your family. I have always loved this special celebration, as it reminds me of the true and most important values of Christianity. May you celebrate it surrounded by your family and beloved ones.”


I responded “Thank you so much for your nice wishes. These mean a lot to me. Of course, I have not forgotten you and all the good work you have done for Diana. She and her mother and sister are now in their hometown N'zérékoré in Guinea. I have been reading recently the book of Karin Armstrong, the Lost Art of Scripture,


It shows the most important value in most religions, including Islam and Christianity, is the value of compassion and this you have definitely showed in your support for Diana despite the many obstacles they and we have been facing to get the needed documents in place before they could leave Egypt.”


Diana (born in 2000) is one of the millions of suffering migrants. She came in 2011 with her single mother and a newly born sister to Egypt. Her mother was told to come to Egypt for work but when she came, she was abandoned and lost the passports of herself and her daughter Diana which not only made it impossible for her to leave Egypt but also stripped them from all rights in the country. Mother was struggling to make a little income and had no funding to send Diana to school. We have contacted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help the family return to Guinea from where they had come. But IOM did not help them sort out their messy legal status. This was done by several of our interns including Weam. They have gone with Diana to the Mugamma (where all immigration documents are processed), the police and Guinean Embassy. The procedures were far from straightforward and it took months before all documents had been prepared for the family to return to Guinea. The family is now back in Guinea but circumstances are not much easier. When they arrived at the airport in Conakry there were riots in the city and were left alone by IOM-Guinea for several weeks. Only days ago they returned to their home city N'zérékoré but there is no family left and work is hard to find. Being without valid documentation in Egypt was highly risky since the Egyptian police puts such people, when they are found, in a police cell until they have paid for overstaying their visa and found money for a one-way ticket to their own country. For this family this would have been tens of thousands of Egyptian pounds which they did not have and neither did they have the connections to people who would have been able to help them to pay for such a sum of money. But returning after such a long absence to Guinea is not easy either. They have neither a natural network, nor a complete family, nor education, nor funding to start a business, nor a secure income. Because Diana has grown up in Egypt, she neither knows French nor any of the tribal languages in Guinea.


The experience with Diana and her family has shown us that low educated migrants are even more disadvantaged than a recognized refugee, precisely because they are not recognized. The return of the family to Guinea is only one step but Diana and her sister need to work on their education if they want to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation.


Thus thank you Weam but also interns Jaemin Kim (South Korea), Dina Bouchkouch (Moroccan-French) and Lara Gibson (British) for your much needed support for this family before they could leave Egypt. For none of us the religious differences were important. Important was that this was a family who needed our help.


Wishing you all a blessed time with the people who are closest to you. Remember all people are precious in God’s eyes and when they are in need, try to help as much this is possible for you.



December 26, 2019

Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report