Skip to comments.The Garbage Village(Largest Christian church in Middle East constructed in Cairo garbage dump)
Posted on 02/05/2008 9:30:25 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o
I have heard tales of an amazing work taking place among the garbage workers of Cairo since I was an undergrad. So it was very encouraging to read this article from the February Lausanne World Pulse: Transforming Lives in Cairo's Garbage Villages.
Villagers collect garbage from city apartments and recycle it. They are the most despised group of people in Egyptian society. They are not paid by the government; however, they receive small tips from the people whose garbage they collect. The rest of their income comes from recycling garbage. It is one of the most ecologically efficient operations in the world as 90%of the garbage is recycled. But the human cost is terrible. Muqattam, now a thriving town of 30,000 began in 1970, when a community of several thousand Coptic garbage workers were forcibly resettled in an abandoned quarry at the foot of a small mountain.
Thirty years ago, Fr. Samaan, a Coptic Orthodox priest "gave up his job in the city to become an ordained priest in the garbage village. When he began, the village had no churches, schools, electricity, water, medical care or markets. It was just garbage, people and pigs. When thousands were brought to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the first thing they wanted to do was build a churchand Father Samaan became their priest. Today, the garbage collectors are filled with love and motivation from God. This is what changed their village. The village is a bustling, hopeful community of thirty thousand people. They still collect garbage; however, they now have three schools, a hospital and many churches.
Blessing in Caves
The churches are located in caves that were blocked by rubble. It was only when one small cave was discovered that residents realised they were surrounded by caves. While that first cave was being converted into a chapel, residents found another one that is now used for church services of up to four thousand people. They soon realised that another cave could be transformed into an enormous amphitheatre to seat fifteen thousand people. Regular church services are held there and people come from all over Caironot just from the garbage villageto worship with other Christians, Rebecca explains. It is the only place, other than the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, where Christians can meet in large numbers in Egypt.
Father Samaan now pastors the largest church in the Middle East and one of the best known in Egypt: St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church in the Mokattam garbage village.
The cave churches have become something of a tourist attraction as you can understand when you see this series of pictures of this extraordinary place and its extraordinary community.
Good News, for once
Thanks! Maybe others who know how to “do” images will help us out as well.
Left: A Sanctuary within the Church;
Right: Biblical carvings in St Simon the Tanner's hall.
Left: Interior view of the cave now used for spiritual meetings and events.
Right: Entrance to St Mark's Church and the upper floor Hall showing the decorated dome of the church.
At the far end of the village, awaits you an unexpected, stunning place; a vast open space lying in the bosom of the hills, with dramatic colored carvings all over the mountain. The carvings were done by a Polish Artist who begun working there several years ago. They represent stories from the Bible such as the Holy Family journey and the Nativity scene.
Everyone really should go to the story of St. Simon the Tanner though!
St. Simon pray for us!
One reviewer wrote:
As a student of Father Mark Gruber O.S.B. at Saint Vincent College, I heard much about how he studied in Egypt for his doctoral dissertation. In due time, while browsing the shelves in the gift shop for the Basillica at the College, I found this book on the shelf. Having heard many good reviews of it from others, I decided to purchase it. Indeed, it was by far a most excellent purchase.
This narrative details the events of his life while he lived among the Coptic monks of Egypt for a year doing research for his doctoral dissertation in Anthropology. However, this is by far more than a story of just his life. It is a story of grace, faith, and coming to know God more through our world. Through all of his experiences in Egypt, Father Gruber's faith was strengthened. The Copts, contemplating God and loving him whole-heartedly, taught Father Gruber not only about their customs and theology but also showed him a living example of true faith in God.
Father Gruber stresses at end of the work how important his time in Egypt was to him. What he gained is not only visible in his personal life. Indeed, as I said above, I have experienced him as a professor. After reading this book, I have realized that many of his lectures in my Biblical Archaeology (Anthropology) class come from lessons he learned from the Copts in Egypt.
In the end, this "spiritual journal" brings to Americans the rich spirituality of the Coptic monks in Egypt. This is by far an excellent book for anyone who wishes to view our Christian faith from a wise, monastic perspective and to be challenged to live out our faith in God more fully.
I am not an avid reader but this book is like a roller coaster ride of west meets east. It is filled with humor, suspense and prayerful devotion. I can't put it down!
Then you will definitely enjoy this book! I am still at the very beginning. Shortly after arriving in Egypt ( he intentionally chose to enter through Alexandria ), he met a young man who turned out to be a Coptic Catholic. Victor told him there were many Catholics in Alexandria. He also told him that Egypt becomes more progressively Islamic all the way into Cairo. The following day, Fr. Gruber (not wearing his clericals) went down to the beach where he began building a sand castle. This intrigued a group of youths (aged 14 - 16) who came to watch with great interest. Apparently this is not a popular activity in Egypt. The boys watched with interest until one of them became very disturbed and exclaimed in Arabic "el kanessa" (a church). The boys accused him of trying to spread Christianity in Egypt by building a representation of Christian churches! Fr. Gruber was very surprised. In the book he says:
Without their knowing anything about my being a Catholic priest, I had been "discovered" as it were. The first person I met was a Catholic Copt who asked me very quickly if I am also a Catholic. The second encounter I had was with Muslim boys who accused me of trying to build a church. So it's really an interesting place of discovery for me: seeing the character of these people and how they tend to interpret everything they experience through the prism of their faith. In seconds, the boys kicked down the towers of my castle and ran away ... triumphant, or afraid?
And this is just the beginning of the book! What happens next is so intriguing, as he tries to gain access to the Coptic monasteries through the Patriarch. I just know you would enjoy this book!
great find. Thanks. Bookmarked for later.
I see amazon.com has it very inexpensively. I’ll get it for Lenten reading. Thanks!
bflr for later reading
I was just thinking that the pictures reminded me of the salt mine cathedral in Poland.
I see what you mean! I never heard of the “salt mine cathedral in Poland,” though — is there a story there?
Very interesting. Amazing what God can do, isn’t it? He just needs willing souls to help accomplish His purpose.