Consequences of the coronavirus crisis for our work

Sent On: 
Wed, 2020-03-25
Newsletter Number: 

CAWU office


The Egyptian government issued new regulations. No citizen is allowed to be in the public domain between 7.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m. Shops need to close at 5.00 pm and on Fridays and Saturdays with the exception of bakeries and pharmacies. All recreational and sports locations such as cafes and gyms must be closed. Restaurants only can work on home delivery. All government services for citizens, such as the application for the renewal of my residence permit, are suspended. Of course, essential services continue. The closure of schools and universities has been extended for another 15 days.


Until now the number of cases in Egypt is relatively small in comparison to its large population but because many areas in Egypt are overcrowded social distancing is difficult. Thus, these areas are vulnerable. On the other hand, the heat of the summer is coming soon. I am seeing reports that this may hamper the virus.


Our American database manager Kent Blaeser, who has done such excellent work in improving our database, left Egypt but got stuck in Istanbul. He can neither return to Egypt nor continue to the USA. He decided not to come back to Egypt. We feel sad for the troubles he is currently in.


Our editor Sara Abdelhamid is working from home and so are translators. Translations continue and our database will continue to be updated. Accountant Adel Rizkallah also works from home.


French intern Clement Ethore was told by his university that he had to return to France. He left Egypt before the flights from Egypt were cancelled. He is working with other (former) interns on a system of CAWU-Ambassadors, to promote CAWU, internships and crowdfunding for the CAWU-Learning Center as much as possible. He brought together of 20 (former) interns who all want to join hands to make this work. This is amazing!! Egyptian/German intern Nour is working at home on a paper on cooperative religious education at the DEO, German International School. She has conducted telephone interviews and is doing all work electronically. Jordanian intern Reem is helping with preparations for a request to the Anna Lindh Foundation to build phase two of the Electronic Network for Arab-West Understanding. Phase I was launched in 2008 by HRH Prince el-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Even though most organizations have closed down we continue to prepare for the next phases in our work. 


The teachers of the CAWU-Learning center have been giving the refugee students instructions over whatsapp and have been calling them to continue work. Seven out of our current 19 students follow up well, communicate with their teachers and do homework. The other 12 is a mixed bag: some face difficulties at home (over crowdedness, getting no space to study, language problems, etc.) or have not realized that this situation may last until the end of this school year. Teachers and Comboni sister Tereza are communicating with them to urge them to find ways to work from home.


Comfort Dickson, leading coordinator of the training of refugee leaders’ program, switched to teaching through video conferencing. Last Friday 29 refugee leaders participated. Assistant coordinator Dani Missangwa lost his mobile android phone, had this replaced by a cheap one but does not have the funding to buy a new one which hampers his communication with refugee leaders and his contribution to videoconferences. Trainers need to work from home and use video conferencing. Refugee leaders are praising Comfort for continuing her work during these difficult circumstances and giving them hope.


Continuing work in these circumstances is not easy but we will continue.


The circumstances are way more difficult for (foreign) prisoners such as Leslie Maras about whom we have reported more than once. Egyptian authorities do not allow any prison visits, but prisoners were to a large extent depending on food and other supplies and communication to the outside world through visitors.


Circumstances are also very difficult for several foreign churches. Egypt is a cash-based society and churches were to a large extent depending on donations through the weekly collections. Churches depending on rent are now also losing this income while the costs or maintaining staff remain unchanged. This is not sustainable.


The forced closure of churches and mosques is unheard off in a very religious country as Egypt, but religious leaders understand there is no choice and recommend people to pray at home.


Many in the community have lost jobs. Others had small businesses that are now closed. Many smaller and medium sized companies may go out of business. The consequences of the worldwide crisis are enormous.


We pray this ordeal may be over as soon as possible.


We wish you all good health and protection.



Cairo, March 25, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman,


Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report