Highlights of 2020

Sent On: 
Thu, 2020-12-31
Newsletter Number: 

It is good to highlight on the last day of the year the most important developments in 2020 in our work.

The covid-19 pandemic had major consequences for Egypt and our work. The government of Egypt closed all airports on March 19. This was a major blow for Egypt’s tourism industry and our in-person internship program. We continued with internships online, but the numbers dropped tremendously. Schools in Egypt and thus also our Learning Center for refugees closed. Different countries made efforts to return their nationals. I was strongly recommended by Dutch authorities to return to The Netherlands and returned with a special flight from Cairo to Paris and from here to The Netherlands on April 8 at a cost of 1000 Euros one-way. Was this needed? In hindsight I think I could have stayed without any problem in Egypt but we were all very uncertain about the consequences of corona and it was anyhow good to be back with my family in The Netherlands.


Production dropped in the months of April-July. Our staff continued to work from home but we had no longer the support of student interns. We tried teaching our refugee students through WhatsApp since most of them have no email and no opportunities through zoom or skype. That was not a success.


Egypt reopened its airports on July 1 and tried to revive tourism in three coastal resorts only. On August 12 I returned to Egypt which was essential to restart work in our office and Learning Center.


Our Learning Center reopened on October 3, with covid-19 prevention rules in place. We expanded with one class and now teach 32 refugee students with three full-time teachers and several part-time teachers. In August I met with Ricardo Langwieder, director of Majorel Company. This gave our learning center a much-needed additional push. Majorel sponsored our refugee choir event on December 23 in St. John the Baptist Church in Maadi and signed a partnership agreement for support in years to come. We have also signed a partnership agreement with the Coptic Catholic Diakonia Development Office. These are major steps in the development of our Learning Center. It is obvious that we have no opportunities to expand in our current NGO space and thus need to move to a larger facility which the Diakonia Development Office can provide.


Other major activities were the SGP funded webinars of June 22-24 and September 26. These came in stead of the summer school that had been planned but that could not be executed because of the covid-19 pandemic. We have had excellent speakers, contributions have been placed in our database and many students benefited. One thing has become very clear and that is the stark difference between Coptic political activists living in the West and Egyptian church leaders and experts. Egypt is not a perfect country, but these Coptic political activists highlight incidents they have seen reported in various media without living in Egypt and thus they no longer experience how diverse the country really is. It is obvious that forming our opinions on the basis of media reporting only is creating great distortions.


We were very pleased with the EO-Metterdaad award for the training of community leaders in the refugee community in Egypt. This project was carried out in close cooperation with Refuge Egypt of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt and is led by former CAWU-intern Comfort Dickson. Tens of refugee leaders received training. This project comes ends January 31, 2021. The reports related to this project will be placed in Arab-West Report for further consultation.


On April 1 Dr. Hamdi Zaqzouq [Ḥamdī Zaqzūq], former Minister of Endowments, passed away. He played until the end of his life a major role in creating a better understanding between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. He was a major force behind the establishment and development of the Bayt al- ʿĀʾila (Egyptian Family House) in which Muslim and Christian leaders cooperate. This is truly an initiative that deserves more international attention.


On May 1 our long-time friend Henk Glimmerveen passed away. He more and more focused in the last years of his life on the dangers of nuclear weaponry for the future of our earth. I am pleased I have been able to write a report about the danger of nuclear weapons that he saw before he passed away. He even provided a last-minute detail that of course was added to this report.


We of course hope that the restrictions caused by the corona pandemic will recede in 2021. The coming year will be important for our Learning Center and the handing over of my work to Dr. Matthew Anderson.


Wishing you all a blessed 2021!



December 31, 2020


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