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Muslim Creativity Comes to Church in Alexandria, Egypt

Muslim Creativity Comes to Church in Alexandria, Egypt

The Corners for Creativity cultural center marks a new Christian witness in the Islamist city.

Alexandria, Egypt, was once a lighthouse for Christianity, emanating from the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Now it is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more conservative Salafi Muslims.

So a Christian opening a cultural center for Muslim and Christian artists in Alexandria—within the walls of an Anglican church—demonstrates a stroke of boldness in a city where some 23 Coptic Christians were killed in a church bombing on New Year's Day 2011.

"For many Muslims," says Nader Wanis, founder of the Corners for Creativity cultural center, "it was the first time in their life they [had] entered a church. They were astounded we let them in; then they go and invite others."

Wanis, a poet and songwriter who owns a multimedia company, noticed the historic grounds of St. Mark's Anglican Pro-Cathedral (a parish church used as a cathedral), built in 1839 in the village of El Menshaiya, were beautiful—and underutilized.

"When I found this church four years ago, I decided to devote my life to it," said Wanis. "I felt it was so empty. There were only a few families attending, just praying."

Yet it was the Egyptian revolution ignited in January 2011 that provided both the impulse and the connections to use the church for the good of Alexandria.

"I saw demonstrations and went to the cultural center across the street and asked if we could bring in these 'screaming kids' to discuss what they wanted," said Wanis. "Every week we met together, but once the revolution turned into politics, I dropped out."

As the politics of Egypt became increasingly dominated by Islamism, Wanis's frustration developed into action. The church, he feared, was isolated from society.

"The church has been misunderstood by the Egyptian street," said Wanis. "There are rumors the church has weapons, fornication, and sorcery inside.

"As long as the church stays closed, Muslims can think whatever they want. But the cultural center is a means to open the door and let people in."

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Original Anna

August 01, 2012  8:10pm

This is not a Christian witness iniative or missionary, this is an art center with plans for more art centers in other areas. Jesus Christ, a phophet in Islam is not even mentioned in the building. I wonder if the icons have been removed too so as to invite the Muslims in. The Muslims now that they have entered the building consider it a Muslim building and I'm surprised the author doesn't get that since he lives there. His main objective is art not spreading the word. Muslims can enter a Christian Church any time they want and that is what needs to be told if they wish to see for themselves there are no weapons, etc. Christian churches are not closed to outsiders like mosques are closed to non Muslims known as infidels. If the churches keep their doors locked, maybe they should unlock them and put a watch on the door to stop robbers, bombers, etc. if they feel they need to. That would speak more to Muslims than an art center in a church building now believed by them to be Muslim.

R Kendall

July 20, 2012  10:18am

It's great that churches are opening their doors to Muslims who might otherwise never step inside due to common misperceptions that "the church has weapons, fornication, and sorcery inside". However, comments such as 'No, these people are just like us … they open their doors and help us, and we are thankful' lose some power when the article states that "over 90% of the participants are Muslims".

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