By Linda Unger
October 1, 2013—Given the pervasive media images of upheaval in Egypt, signs of hope there may not seem readily apparent—unless one has “eyes to see.”
The Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Service (CEOSS), a longtime partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the General Board of Global Ministries, not only sees the signs of hope but is working to foster them, especially among the most vulnerable people of the society.
“CEOSS serves all Egyptians—Muslims and Christians—without discrimination on any grounds. We see all people as human beings—as created, all, in the image of God,” said CEOSS General Director Dr. Rev. Andrea Zaki in a conversation today in New York City with UMCOR and Global Ministries staff.
Founded in 1950 by the Protestant Church in Egypt, CEOSS became an independent nongovernmental organization in 1960. With a staff of 750, it reaches more than two million Egyptians with services across a variety of sectors, including health, education, livelihoods, capacity building, and poverty alleviation.
It also seeks to increase understanding among government, media, and policymakers about the needs of the poor and vulnerable and to advocate for those needs.
The organization states that a quarter of the Egyptian population lives in poverty, with 4.8 per cent living in extreme poverty. Many face problems of unemployment and lack of access to schooling, safe water, and sanitation.
Children are especially vulnerable. More than a third of child deaths are due to under nutrition. Nearly as many children, under the age of five, experience stunted growth, and more than one in eight babies have a low birth weight, CEOSS says.
“Our work takes a rights-based approach, but not only that,” Zaki said. “It is a rights-based approach connected to building access to education, to economic development, to social development,” he indicated.
In this way, CEOSS underscores the human and civil rights the citizens of democracies enjoy; advocates for the rights of the most vulnerable; and helps Egyptians access those rights in concrete terms.
In one agricultural program, for example, CEOSS sought to bring together poor farmers with persons from the private sector. CEOSS told the farmers to elect representatives to the conversations and underscored how important it is in a democracy to elect the right persons as representatives. They did so, Zaki said, and as a result, were able to work with the private sector to get seeds, raise new crops, and increase their incomes by as much as 160 per cent.
CEOSS also is dedicated to peace building and to fostering mutual understanding among different cultural and religious groups in Egypt.
Through its Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, CEOSS seeks “to strengthen a culture of dialogue by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance of diversity, and to encourage social integration to contribute to creating a pluralistic society.”
This is a critical contribution as the Egyptian people build their future. It can only properly be engaged when a people can see the hope in their midst.
To support the work of CEOSS, you may donate to Enhancing the Quality of Life for Mothers and Children Through Healthcare, Advance #3021592.