Egypt Renovates Christians’ Oldest Monastery

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

top_ten_st_anthonys Amid an escalating sectarian divide, a predominantly Muslim Egypt is touting the completed renovation of the world’s oldest monastery as a symbol of tolerance and harmony with the Christian faith community.

Egypt, longstanding tensions between the Muslim majority and Christian minority periodically erupt in violence. The most fatal of the past decade was a drive-by shooting at a church on Coptic Christmas Eve in January that killed six Christians and a Muslim security guard. But amid the escalating sectarian divide, the Egyptian government says it is committed to maintaining the country’s diverse religious history by preserving historic religious sites.

Last month, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced the completion of a five-year renovation of St. Anthony’s monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in the world, touting it as a symbol of the country’s religious tolerance and harmony.

“I am very proud that I am able to restore not only Pharaonic, but also Islamic and Coptic and Jewish [sites], because all of these are a part of the Egyptian heritage,” says Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The renovation of the 1,600-year-old monastery, located at a desert oasis 100 miles southeast of Cairo, cost about $14.5 million and employed 500 Muslim laborers who lived and worked within the monastery’s grounds – itself a symbol of coexistence, says Mr. Hawass. “During Ramadan [the month-long holy Muslim fast], the monks used to eat with [the workers],” he says, referring to the daily meal that breaks the sunrise to sundown fast.

St. Anthony’s monastery was founded around AD 350 in homage to St. Anthony, widely believed to be the founder of Christian monasticism, who lived and died in the area. The renovation revealed the oldest Coptic cell in the world, dating from the 4th century AD. Today, according to Hawass, the active monastery, which houses dozens of monks, attracts 1 million visitors and pilgrims a year.

Hawass hopes that by preserving Egypt’s diverse past, he can heal Egypt’s troubled present. “Things like I’m doing … can make people know that we are one people,” he says. “There is no difference between a Copt or a Muslim, all of us are Egyptians.”

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Mumbai Terror Survivor Embraces Islam

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamnewsroom.com

NEW YORK – An American Catholic and survivor of a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India last November overcame hatred and opened his mind to learn and discover Islam and becomes a Muslim.

Dennis O’Brien Survivor of Mumbai Terror Attack ACCEPTS ISLAM

Dennis O’Brien, a Catholic, wanted to comprehend the basis of faith of people accused of committing the attack in Mumbai. He discovered in fact, the gunmen were certainly not following Islam at all. In fact, anyone who might take the time to open their eyes, open their minds and open their hearts would have to come to the very same conclusion.

Sunday, just after Eid salat and standing before a crowd of thousands, Dennis O’Brien embraced Islam.

He declared.. ..his belief – “There is only one God and the Prophet Muhammad is his last messenger”.

O’Brien, who heads up the education committee of St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, says this was a surprise, even to him. But said he was at peace with it.

“Today I feel free of sin,” he remarked.

After several months of studies and asking questions of Muslim friends and associates, “I feel comfort in Islam,” he said.

O’Brien also said he wanted to express solidarity with Muslims, even though extremists who say they practice the faith “tried to kill me”.

Pastor John McGinley, of St Anthony’s, said Sunday he had not heard of O’Brien’s embrace of Islam. McGinley said he knew O’Brien is inquisitive and has expressed concern about the young men involved in the Mumbai attacks.

He would not say if the declaration of another faith would affect O’Brien’s position at the church, noting he had not spoken to him about Sunday’s events. “I think this is part of his journey of faith and we can work with that,” McGinley said.

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