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Pioneering Work in Egypt Among Abuse Survivors

Discussing human trafficking and domestic, child and sexual abuse is taboo in Egypt, let alone trying to put an end to these forms of violence. But stopping such abuse and accompanying survivors in their healing is exactly the mission of a new Catholic apostolate in Upper Egypt.

Editors’ note: Journalist Magdy Samaan visited the center and shares his experience in the audio report below. He also wrote about the center’s countercultural mission in “Breaking the Silence” in the December 2023 edition of ONE. A full transcript of the audio follows.

The Catholic Church in Egypt has many charities that have helped countless people over the years. It inherited most of them decades ago when the church was more vibrant and engaged with society. In each story of these charities, there is a line about the founders — those people who were driven by a desire to help others.

In this issue of ONE magazine, we feature the Oasis Center for Counseling and Formation, a Catholic Church pioneer project that rehabilitates victims of violence and sexual abuse among women and children. Despite the prevalence of this phenomenon in Egypt, particularly in the countryside, few institutions deal with it due to the sensitivity of the issue and many of those who work in this field lack the necessary knowledge and experience.

It was inconceivable for a center like this to be established, let alone succeed, in the absence of several factors that came together to support its establishment and provide great potential for it to lead the effort to combat violence and sexual abuse against women and children. The founder of the center is Father Makarios Isaac, who has extensive experience in this field.

He is assisted by his brother, Dr. Samy Farid. Both brothers are dedicated to service and possess the courage to address such challenging issues. But their courage and dedication to service would not have been enough without knowledge and expertise. Both of them have extensive experience they have acquired from working with international organizations that deal with this issue.

In 2009, Father Makarios established a similar center in Kenya to rehabilitate sexually abused children. Dr. Farid worked in the same field for 15 years at UNICEF. These factors, however, would not have been enough to ensure the creation of the center without the support of Bishop Kamal Fahim, the former bishop of Minya, who invited Father Makarios to establish the center when he saw the need for such a project, and the continuation of support from Bishop Basilios, the current bishop of Minya, who mentions the center in his sermons and encourages those in need to contact the center. Their support provide reassurance for the people that they would be safe if they sought help.

I expect this newly established center to not only succeed, but also to lead the effort to raise awareness and combat the violence and sexual abuse against women and children in Egypt. It has the knowledge, the dedicated staff, and the support of the church leadership, and it serves a society in need.

Based in Cairo, Magdy Samaan is the Egypt correspondent for The Times of London. His work also has been published by CNN, the Daily Telegraph and Foreign Policy.

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