“Back to Roots” was the motto that themed the third Logos Forum for Coptic Youth, held by the Coptic Orthodox Church at the Logos Centre in the Western Desert Monastery of Anba Bishoy, some 120km northwest Cairo. The Forum ran from 20 to 27 August 2022, and featured participation by 200 young men and women from 35 Coptic dioceses around the world.
On the Forum’s Facebook page which exudes a jubilant spirit, the young participants explained the main idea of the logo of their Forum. The logo is a Coptic cross in which a tree with branches and leaves is embedded, symbolising the Coptic Church as a fruitful tree branching out into the four corners of the world. The colours used in the logo are sky blue for Egypt’s sky and seas; yellow for her deserts, desert monasteries, and ancient monuments; and Nile blue for her life-giving Nile that runs from South to North connecting her lands and people.
Pope Tawadros II opened the Forum on 20 August. Ahead lay a busy, vibrant week of spiritual activity, visits to various spots in Egypt, and meetings with senior officials, public figures, and Church notables.
Moment of silence
Participating in the opening ceremony were Anba Pachomius, Metropolitan of Beheira and Pentapolis; Anba Danial, Bishop of Maadi and Secretary of the Holy Synod, Anba Raphael, Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo Churches, and a number of priests.
The ceremony began with a moment of silence to mourn the 41 victims of the fire that erupted during the Mass on 14 August in the Imbaba church of Abu-Seifein, in Giza.
Pope Tawadros gave a talk during which he welcomed the attendants and participants, and thanked all who had worked hard to make the Forum a success.
The Pope reminded the youth of the hymn they probably all sang as Sunday School children: “My Church is my home … my mother … the secret of my joy.” He remarked that the Church is indeed a ‘home’ where they find warm love and care by a ‘mother’ delighted with her young who make the future. Youth are, he said, the real joy in which we “Rejoice in the Lord always,” (Philippians 4:4)
Pope Tawadros said that the Forum aims at teaching participants to be ambassadors of joy to family, Church and nation. He told the young people they would be meeting prominent figures and visiting significant places, activities sure to foster joy and love. “In everything,” he said, “you will understand and recognise Christ’s love that fills our hearts.”
Five dimensions of love
It was not the only time the Pope spoke to the young people. On the evening of Wednesday 24 August, Pope Tawadros’s weekly sermon was broadcast live from Logos Centre where the Youth Forum was being held. He talked of “Love as responsibility”, a topic explored by the young Forum participants. The Pope used the 4th chapter of the first Epistle of St John to spearhead principles he termed the “five dimensions of love” which define the responsibilities of someone walking with God. These are: love for God, love for other humans, love for the community, love for nature, and love for eternal life.
Back to roots
Pope Tawadros, accompanied by a number of bishops, later escorted the Logos youth to a meeting with Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly at the government quarters in the newly developed town of New Alamein on the Mediterranean coast. Participating in the meeting was Minister of State for Emigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Soha Gendy.
PM Madbouly talked at length with the young people, explaining the situation and conditions in Egypt, and answered their questions about the challenges confronting the country on all aspects. He detailed the population growth problem and its consequences, especially in what concerns development, investment, housing, infrastructure, healthcare, education, tourism, poverty, and more.
The Logos youth also met other senior officials in Egypt. These included Alexandria Governor Mohammad al-Sherif and his Vice Governor Jacqueline Azer; representatives of the ministries of youth and sports, and tourism and antiquities; President of the Arab Maritime Academy; politicians; and a number of ambassadors to Egypt and chargés d’affaires of embassies of countries from which the Logos youth came. The meeting of these officials with the Logos youth was described by Pope Tawadros as a “gathering of love” in which the officials welcomed the young people who warmly insisted their visit to Egypt brought them much love and inspiration.
Inspiration by world renown figures
The Logos youth were fortunate to meet two pioneering medical figures: Sir Magdi Yacoub and Professor Magdy Ishak; both are Egyptian British world renown surgeons. Sir Magdi Yacoub is the pioneering heart surgeon close to Egyptians’ hearts, whose Magdi Yacoub Foundation founded the famed Aswan Heart Centre that offers state-of-the-art treatment and surgery free of charge. Prof. Magdy Ishak is the well-known orthopaedic surgeon who has to his credit numerous honours and who is Founder and former CEO of Covenant Healthcare Group.
The two prominent doctors met the Logos youth at Logos Centre. They talked of their experiences and careers, stressing that a person should have a vision and a goal in life, which they should work to fulfil. They replied to the questions by the young people. Pope Tawadros warmly thanked them both for the inspiring and successful experiences they shared with the youth.
Another figure who met the youth was Michael Cassis, an Egyptian Greek entrepreneur currently directing Business Development at Mintra, a manufacturer and distributor of consumer goods with more than 5,000 employees. He told the young people that his vision with Mintra focuses on employability of women from disadvantaged areas of Cairo; these, he said, today represent more than 90 per cent of Mintra’s associates.
Cassis talked about his studies abroad and his decision to go back home to Egypt where he started his business which now has a large volume of exports to various places in the world.
Last but definitely not least, Logos youth met international lawyer Mary Boctor, who spoke of her career. The Pope thanked Mr Cassis and Ms Boctor for their inspiring talks.
The young people’s itinerary included a plethora of visits to religious and touristic sites.
These included visits to the Western Desert monasteries of Wadi al-Natroun that still include the 4th century churches, keeps, wells, refectories, monk cells, manuscript troves, and others.
There was also a visit to St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which stands on the site of the ancient church built by St Mark himself in AD62; it houses the head of St Mark, and its crypt holds the remains of 46 Coptic popes, and another to St Mark’s Cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, the current papal seat built in 1968, which includes a shrine that houses part of the relics of St Mark brought that same year from the Vatican.
Another visit cherished by the young Logos people was to the site of the cavern at Dronka on Assiut’s Western Mountain, where the Holy Family is believed to have spent time on their biblical flight to Egypt; Assiut is a region some 350km south of Cairo. The youth were received by Anba Yu’annis, Bishop of Assiut, who toured the place with them then presided there over Midnight Praise sung in several languages and concluding with Mass in the early hours of the following day.
Before leaving Assiut, the young people visited the monastery of the Holy Virgin al-Muharraq, famous as a spot that hosted the Holy Family for some six months. Anba Bigoul, the abbot, received them there.
A memorable visit was one paid to Abdeen Palace Museum in Cairo, the seat of government in monarchical Egypt from 1874 to 1952. The palace is famous for its rich, splendid royal rooms and its rare acquisitions.
Logos Fair, and carnival for African children
For their part, the Logos youth held their own Logos Fair at Logos Centre. The Fair was opened by Pope Tawadros and Egypt’s Minister of Emigration and Expatriate Egyptian Affairs, Soha Gendy. The pavilions were set up by CoptiCAD Institute; the Coptic Church website; Ministry of Emigration; Bishopric of Social Services; Holy Synod Secretariat; Institute of Coptic Studies; Tyrannus’ Orthodox Seminary; Coptic Media Centre; Ministry of Environment; Papal Office for Projects; Coptic Medical Association of North America (CMANA); Christian Youth Channel (CYC); Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board; Ava Abraam service; Saint Paul service; St Mark Foundation; KOOGI satellite Channel; Anaphora Academy; The Bible Society of Egypt; and Ministry of Defense (Military Authority).
LOGOS youth visited the African Community School where they organised, in partnership with the Servants’ Team, a carnival for the school children.
Established at the hands of Pope Tawadros II in 2014, the African Community School for primary and secondary education is a Coptic Orthodox school launched to support Sudanese refugees in Egypt by teaching their children the Sudanese curriculum. It boasted 405 male and female students during the academic year 2021 / 2022, and provides job opportunities for 22 teachers. The total number of graduates of the school since its establishment is 240 students.
The carnival included educational and entertainment activities which the children and the youth absolutely enjoyed.
On the spiritual side, Logos youth attended Masses and spiritual meetings during their Egypt visit. Monday 22 August coincided with the Feast of the Holy Virgin; the youth attended the Liturgy of the feast, officiated by Pope Tawadros.
The Alexandria church of the Holy Virgin and St Joseph in Smouha invited the youth for a “Bible Night” which the young people described as “A night in Heaven”. The immersive experience focuses on the spread of Christianity in the world at the hands of the Apostles, through chambers that each depict a place visited by an Apostle. The exchange of information between the church servants and the youth made for an enhanced spiritual experience.
Closing night saw warm hearted words by Coptic bishops and also by representatives of Logos Youth who said how happy they were at what they lived in Egypt: the everyday stories, spiritual and practical activities, and the vision they gained.
A short video was screened wrapping up the content of the Forum throughout the eight days.
The Pope delivered a closing speech in which he spoke of the young as the future of the Coptic Church. In a nutshell, this is what the Logos Youth Forum was all about.
31 August 2022