The season of Advent and Christmas and our Muslim friends

Sent On: 
Thu, 2019-12-05
Newsletter Number: 


teacher Maha Frieh with our Learning Center students


We are in the season of advent and Christmas. Our Muslim teacher Maha Frieh bought Christmas decorations for our Learning Center students in order to give them in class a bit of a Christmas atmosphere. Coptic businessman Mounir Ghabbour [Munīr Ghabbūr], owner of the Sonesta and JW Marriot hotels and chairman of the Egyptian Heritage Revival Association (NEHRA), is preparing for the launch of the Holy Family operetta in Paris on December 19 with the title “Egypt … The Way.” This is taking place at Palais De Congrès theater in Paris – France, within the activities of the France-Egypt Cultural Year. The operetta aims to encourage cultural and historical tourism to Egypt by promoting the path of the Holy Family in a melodic performance illustrating the Holy family's journey in Egypt that exceeded 3 years.

This is the same opera he earlier presented on June 24 in Cairo and which was attended by high level Muslim and Christian dignitaries. Mr. Ghabbūr then offered free tickets to 19 interns, staff and board members of our Center for Arab-West Understanding. The operetta, interestingly, mixes Egyptian nationalist sentiments with Christian tradition. Please read more about this here. On Sunday December 8 at 7.00 pm Mr. Ghabbūr gives a press conference in the Sonesta hotel in Nasr City, Cairo, about the Holy Family operetta in Paris.


I attended on November 29 and 30 the two-day 30th anniversary conference of the Egyptian Moral Rearmament Association (in other parts of the world better known as Initiatives of Change). EMRA was established after the Second World War to work towards peace between peoples of all nations, religions and cultures. EMRA has both Muslim and Christian members and it was beautiful to participate in the discussions and experience how similar Muslims and Christians truly are. The aim of EMRA is to focus on inner change because this will affect the world around us in a positive way.


We are very grateful for Muslim businessman Dr. Enan Galaly [ʿAnān Jalālī], founder and president of Helnan International Hotels, who agreed to sponsor the lunch for our 20 refugee students, teachers and interns in the Helnan Auberge hotel, Fayoum Oasis in January. Dr. ʿAnān Jalālī earlier sponsored our Holy Family website. Please see for his background and motivation for sponsoring this website here.


Dr. Jalālī writes that the group that he was working with at that time,


“insisted to write that the Holy Family “escaped” to Egypt, this is according to the fact in the Bible. There were so many discussions in this regard and I insisted to write “ refugees to Egypt” because  I wanted to use these words to inform the public and political decision makers in western countries,  since most of their population is Christian, about the need to welcome refugees. This is in particular needed in our current time because most of refugees from the developing countries find their way to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. I want to highlight the importance that citizens of those countries should treat their refugees in the same way Egyptians have treated the Holy Family and Jesus Christ and not the way I myself was treated with discrimination and racism when I first arrived in Europe.


When Cornelis Hulsman and I met together his Holiness Pope Tawadros [Tawāḍrūs], I mentioned the Holy Family as “refugees”. I also wrote a letter to his Holiness Pope Francis and highlighted the same.


As I am not a Christian and not a religious figure I have given myself the right to use the word “refugees” instead using the word “escaping.” I had many discussions and counter views, due to what is stated in the Bible but I am proud to see that the two Holy Popes have used the word “refugees” and not the word “escaped” (email November 24).


This is Egypt. It is a country where Muslims and Christians live side by side, interact and support each other. Often media just focuses on the negative and sadly this exists but there is also so much positive interaction which also needs to be highlighted.


Wishing you a blessed Christmas season,



December 5, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report