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Shaping a New Future in Egypt View Comments
By Meghan and Jonathan Millea

A Muslim girl chants slogans and holds up a Quran and a cross during a rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians in Tahrir Square in Cairo, March 11, 2011. The rally took place after sectarian clashes had left 13 people dead.
I hope they have a future,” says Sister Joanna with a smile. Standing inside the small chapel of a Catholic school near Cairo, the petite Egyptian nun gazes outward, thinking. The four walls of Immaculate Heart School offer a refuge from Egypt’s revolutionary chaos, providing a safe place where young women have an opportunity to learn and grow. Eventually, equipped only with their education and faith, Sister Joanna’s students will leave, rushing back into the fog of an uncertain tomorrow. She adds, “What they see now is all black.” (For reasons of safety, this article uses pseudonyms for the school, students, and staff.)

This flourishing city of 18 million has grown tense and, at times, unwelcoming in the violent wake of the Arab Spring. Horrific stories of virginity tests, violent protests, unrestrained mob attacks, brutal religious killings, and kidnappings abound in daily conversation.

“It is rough for the revolution, for those who made the revolution,” Sister Joanna continues. “You can feel others want to destroy this revolution for the young. Young people want many, many things. They want to live their future. You can see their hands are empty. They need to grab something; they can’t grab anything with the situation they have now. Many, many of them have lost their way.”

Egypt’s future remains in doubt. Power struggles abound as the military vies for control, an elected parliament is dissolved, and a formal constitution needs to be written. A small ray of hope emerged in June 2012 with Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi. However, Morsi’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood makes many Egyptians nervous, especially Christians. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has had strained relationships with Christians.

While institutionalized discrimination toward Christians existed throughout Hosni Mubarak’s administration (1981–2011), particularly in terms of hiring and land-use practices, prospects for unity between Christians and the Muslim majority have since deteriorated. Open conflict and bloodshed have replaced security.

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Meghan Millea, a journalist for the Times-Reporter in Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, traveled to Egypt after her Middle Eastern studies at Kent State University. Jonathan Millea is an airport development consultant and technical writer.

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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 
did.

 
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