Moving forward together; Muslims and Christians in Egyptian Society for a Sustainable Future

Sent On: 
Thu, 2019-07-25
Newsletter Number: 

The Tunisian revolution between December 18, 2010 and January 14, 2011 triggered revolts with foreign interventions in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Egypt, fortunately, regained stability, although not perfect. For this reason it is extremely important to continue promoting a culture of tolerance and acceptance of differences. In 2018 we organized our first summer school. In the summer of 2019 we organized even two summer schools.


The first summer school was organized by the Center for Arab-West Understanding and the Anglican Diocese of Egypt at the Anglican Cathedral and Conference Center in Zamalek, Cairo, between July 2 and July 9. This summer school was financially support by the Dutch political party SGP that would like to see Christians remain in their countries of origin and that in turn needs stability. The second summer school was organized between July 7 and 14 by SEKEM company, Heliopolis University and the Center for Arab-West Understanding. This was funded through crowdfunding and a contribution from SEKEM.


I have asked two participants to write about their experiences.


Hanna Stadler, CAWU intern and participant in the first summer school wrote:

Participants of the first summer school at the Muqattam cave church


Moving forward together, that was the idea the first summer school implemented. In the Egyptian society Muslim and Christians live together, but unfortunately, they often live rather next to each other than together. Prejudices and suspicions are widespread a lack of dialogue and creates misunderstandings. The summer school brought Muslim and Christian students together for frank open discussions and learn more about each other.  The program was broad and included excursions, presentations by highly recognized university professors, as well as meetings with religious men. The program gave participants time to build intercultural bridges and make new friends.


Rodrigo, a participant at the summer school stated, that the most interesting part for him, was to learn about Salafism, their interactions with the geopolitical and social environment in Egypt as well as the relationships with different denominations. “I learned to sympathize and created a greater understanding about Islam and Christianity and the way they relate in the larger Egyptian society,” he said. He underlined the importance of dialogue “People need to understand each other if they want to live peacefully with each other.” The group was multinational, multiethnic and multireligious. “Despite many differences they were willing to learn of each other, in order to understand people with different backgrounds and work together for a better and more understanding future.”


Jaemin Kim, CAWU intern and participant in the second summer school wrote:

Participants of the 2nd summer school in discussion about religion in society with Dr. Matthew Anderson and Cornelis Hulsman


The second summer school was titled ‘Intercultural Dialogue for a Sustainable Future’ and was held between July 7 and July 14. The starting date was awkward because the second summer school started before the first one ended. That was because the conference space at the Anglican Diocese was only available between July 2 and 9. Nana Woo made an excellent start while Cornelis Hulsman completed the first school and came to the second one on the 10th. The second summer school was organized by SEKEM Development Foundation (SDF), Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development (HU) and the Center for Arab-West Understanding CAWU).


The second summer school was rather aiming at interpersonal activities than academic lectures. Several presentations were provided but they were more than just sitting and listening but discussing and drawing, and even dancing. Lectures included some social issues regarding gender, religion and so forth. Through the active lectures, participants were able to share their opinions and thoughts to enrich the lectures with diversity, thus to meet the goal of the summer school, which is promoting peaceful and sustainable development.


The SEKEM-HU-CAWU summer school gave participants plenty opportunities to share their knowledge and experiences with others. Also the second summer school was very diverse. Some students contributed with classes of yoga, contemporary dance, psychology and so on. It was so interesting to see how people are different in terms of their skills and abilities.


Participants of the second summer school


On the last day of the summer school, there was a performance about all things learned for SEKEM leadership and staff. It truly was a celebration of diversity. Group leaders and participants formed a choir which had been practicing for a week together. Participants came from different regions in Egypt and different countries. The greatest experience of this summer school was the harmony of differences, through uniting people of diverse background to one humanity.



The styles of the two summer schools were very different but both brought students of highly different backgrounds together. These are experiences we want to build on for another summer school next year and I hope many more to come.



Cairo, July 25, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman,

Co-organizer for both summer schools