Daniel Tsoi shares how the St John’s Student Opportunities Fund helped him travel to Egypt to spend a month with the Anglican Diocese.
I was so grateful to have received financial support from the John’s Student Opportunity Fund, which allowed me to spend four weeks in the Anglican Diocese of Egypt to experience how Anglicans share their lives with other church traditions and the majority Islamic faith.
I was primarily based at the All Saints Cathedral in Cairo. I also travelled to various places within Egypt to broaden my horizons. These fantastic places included Alexandria, where it was believed St Mark the Evangelist first brought the Gospel to that part of the world. I also visited Mount Sinai and travelled through the desert areas, which helped me to really understand what the “wilderness of Sinai” means. Climbing up to the mountain where it was believed God met with Moses was just incredible.
I spent a few days in St Macarius Coptic Monastery on their Feast Day of the Apostles. Spending time in a place where Christian worship has been there since the 4th century and participating in the Coptic worship with the monks is something I will not forget. I was so blessed that a good Johnian friend (a Coptic monk) was there to show me around too!
Besides seeing the Christian sites, I also had opportunities to visit the Islamic quarter in Cairo and various Islamic places, including the famous Al-Azhar and Al-Hussain mosques. The Anglican Diocese of Egypt has a good relationship with the Al-Azhar Foundation. I discussed it with Archbishop Emeritus, the Most Revd Dr Mouneer, leading the new Centre of Christian-Muslim Understanding and Partnership (CCMUP). Bishop Mouneer was very generous to me, and talking with him was really helpful in understanding the context and the joy and challenges in interfaith relations.
The social welfare system is very different in Egypt compared to England. The Anglican Diocese has extensive work on refugees (particularly from South Sudan) and marginalised communities in Cairo. They even have a medical clinic next to the cathedral in Cairo for refugees. They also host the office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRC). It was a privilege to see how these different organisations worked and speak to some of the refugees to get to know their stories.
As an Ordinand training for priestly ministry within the Church of England, I assist in the English-speaking services on Friday and Sunday (yes, two services a week!). I also followed my supervisor Bishop Samy around to see different services – baptism, ordination, and even the graduation ceremony of their own theological school within the Diocese. My rusty and most-forgotten Arabic did allow me to at least follow the familiar Anglican liturgy. I witnessed the most joyful service from the brothers and sisters from South Sudan – traditional Anglican Holy Communion with a lot of dancing and singing! Many of them had gone through a lot of difficulties.
There is much more I can share as it has been such a rich experience that has already greatly enriched me as a person, future priest, and global Christian. I am really thankful for the fund which made this placement possible!