While Egypt is going through the darkest days in its history with churches torched, businesses ransacked and innocent people killed, Coptic Orphans continues to plough through the religious divide and plants seeds of unity and harmony.
Despite the turmoil and violence hitting Sohag, and other parts of Egypt, Christian and Muslim girls came together to uphold the values of unity and tolerance. It is through such grassroots initiatives bringing a community together that trust and harmony can flourish. This year, the Valuable Girl Project is running in eleven locations with around 500 participants throughout Egypt.
Did you know that there's a cycle of widowhood among the poor in Egypt?
Under economic pressure, widowed mothers often pull their daughters out of school and marry them off to older men. But that dooms those daughters to one day become widows without the education to provide for their children, either.
The solution is easy: find a way to keep girls in school, and out of marriage until they graduate.
That is the goal of the Valuable Girl Project. Younger girls gain the courage, tenacity, and practical help they need to stay in school through the support of mentors in their local communities. They not only resist family pressures to drop out; but often change their family's views in the process.
People sometimes ask why we place importance on building Christian and Muslim relationships through the Valuable Girl Project. After the revolution sectarian violence has escalated significantly. We see it as our responsibility to continue to build a bridge of understanding to keep our children safe.
In Egypt, many children and adults never interact with each other simply because of their religious differences. Separate cultural and religious practices often eliminate the opportunity to communicate for a basic understanding. As people get older their fear of the unknown can sometimes develop into a full blown hatred.
Aalia* happens to be Muslim and is a Big Sister mentor participating in our Valuable Girl Project. She shares her thoughts about interacting with other Christian girls through Coptic Orphans.
"Before participation in the program, I used to carry negative attitudes and feeling towards Christians in general. I never used to have any Christian friends or as much as talked to my fellow Christian classmates or neighbors, if I knew they were Christian. The reason I joined the project was exclusively driven by the motive to find a job…nothing else! However, upon the start of the project, I was personally touched by the love and respect my fellow Christian girls showed me. After participating in the Valuable Girl Project I started to feel a mutual love and respect for them as well. I felt that something changed in me and in how I lead my life just by observing how they treated me. Consequently, my family also changed their attitudes towards Christians in general. A few months after joining the project, our local VGP coordinators advertised an overnight trip to Assuit which included a visit to Saint Mary’s Monastery and I wanted to go. I wanted to spend time with my new friends and understand more about their life. When I asked my dad if he would let me participate in the trip he said I could go because he knew I would be safe and that I have nothing to fear with my new Christian friends. VGP helped change me and my family’s attitude towards Christians for the better."
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the families
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