It was a really hard start to the year, with 23 people killed by a bomb as they left their church in Alexandria a few minutes into the New Year. For me, it felt like the day of 9/11, a feeling of shock and disbelief that this could happen. As a foreigner, I’m one step removed, but the feeling at work was so sad. My workmates are generally laughing and walk into each other’s offices telling jokes and laughing but everyone was so sad and subdued. This was followed by days of protests by Christians, who feel ignored by the government, and not protected enough.
Sunday 30 January
I was very happy to hear from my parents last night. I had no way to contact New Zealand as although my mobile was working within Egypt I couldn’t send texts or ring outside the country. I stopped writing yesterday as there was lots of shouting and some gunshots. We went to our neighbours to see what was happening from their house. Their daughter was excited that there was a tank in the street. Local men have started going to the streets to protect shops and houses from the mob on the street. Because there are no police, and there’s not enough army to cover the city, the TV encouraged people to protect their own neighbourhoods. There were men directing traffic and they built a wooden and metal barricade at the entrance to our street.
We stayed home all day today. While we were watching DVDs we heard fighter jets flying overhead about 5pm, which was really loud. Manial has been one of the safest suburbs because of the amazing protection of the people. They apparently caught about 10 ‘haraami’ (criminals) who had escaped from four prisons in Cairo. 6 of them were locked up in the coffeehouse across the road until the army picked them up.
Tuesday 1 February
Friends from the cathedral picked us up about 10.30am. The roads were quiet except in Manial where there were so many young men protecting the streets. Our street was the most protected that we saw, there was a 2 level line of defence and what looked like a catapult. I’ve always liked my suburb of Manial, and now I like even more as people really pulled together and successfully protected the neighbourhood.
There was a communion service led by the Bishop and joined by Egyptians and ex-pats. It was so good to see some workmates there, and all the staff and clergy who live at the guesthouse. It was so good to remember that God is with us, as the situation seems to change every day.
Wednesday 2 February
I felt positive this morning, and the Bishop said that he was encouraged by the peacefulness of the demonstrations. We prayed together again and shared verses from the Bible which had encouraged us over the past few days.
A team member shared from Psalm 46; ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear... Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’
Thursday 3rd February:
One thing that has been really difficult is so many of my friends that are foreigners leaving each day…. I feel strongly that I don’t want to leave unless I feel unsafe. Since the lawlessness has stopped, and there aren’t criminals on the loose, and the activities are focused on Tahrir Square I still feel safe. The NZ embassy hasn’t issued an evacuation warning, and I haven’t been told to leave by my organisation or the church here I’m planning to stay. The biggest reason for this is that I can’t take my good friends from Egypt with me, and as I’m wanting to serve and support the church I want to stay as long as I can to show solidarity. I’ve been ringing people each day to check in with them, and have been so encouraged praying with a group of 20 Egyptians and foreigners each morning.
Sunday 6th February
Today I fell asleep in church and then slept most of the afternoon. I caught a cold, but also looking back I’ve realised it’s been a stressful week and I’m just tired! I’m starting to think about taking a holiday when this is all over.
Work is resuming tomorrow. I’m so excited to see all of my workmates, swap stories, and just feel like life is returning to normal again. However, I know the situation is still volatile, and there are still people protesting.
I’m thankful for:
- The community of people in my home in Manial, and the guesthouse in Zamalek who have looked out for each other
- The way Egyptians stepped up to protect their homes and shops when the police left the streets, especially those outside my street
- The comfort of God’s Word in the Bible during tough times over the past week
- The churches and institutions, that we can be a witness in the situation and that we can fix our eyes on God who is in control.
- The new government and the fragile political situation
- Comfort for those who have lost loved ones