Extraordinary Grace in Cairo: The Garbage Village of Muqattam Print
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 05 February 2008 06:25

Simply extraordinary. A riveting story that gives some sense of what God can do when one person answers and is doggedly faithful to a challenging call over a lifetime, even in one of the most difficult places on earth.

I have heard tales of an amazing work taking place among the garbage workers of Cairo since I was an undergrad. So it was
very encouraging to read this article from the February Lausanne World Pulse: Transforming Lives in Cairo's Garbage Villages.

Villagers collect garbage from city apartments and recycle it. They are the most despised group of people in Egyptian society. They are not paid by the government; however, they receive small tips from the people whose garbage they collect. The rest of their income comes from recycling garbage. It is one of the most ecologically efficient operations in the world as 90%of the garbage is recycled. But the human cost is terrible. Muqattam, now a thriving town of 30,000 began in 1970, when a community of several thousand Coptic garbage workers were forcibly resettled in an abandoned quarry at the foot of a small mountain.

Thirty years ago, Fr. Samaan, a Coptic Orthodox priest "gave up his job in the city to become an ordained priest in the garbage village. When he began, the village had no churches, schools, electricity, water, medical care or markets. It was just garbage, people and pigs. When thousands were brought to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the first thing they wanted to do was build a church—and Father Samaan became their priest. Today, the garbage collectors are filled with love and motivation from God. This is what changed their village. The village is a bustling, hopeful community of thirty thousand people. They still collect garbage; however, they now have three schools, a hospital and many churches.

Blessing in Caves

The churches are located in caves that were blocked by rubble. It was only when one small cave was discovered that residents realised they were surrounded by caves. While that first cave was being converted into a chapel, residents found another one that is now used for church services of up to four thousand people. They soon realised that another cave could be transformed into an enormous amphitheatre to seat fifteen thousand people. “Regular church services are held there and people come from all over Cairo—not just from the garbage village—to worship with other Christians,” Rebecca explains. “It is the only place, other than the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, where Christians can meet in large numbers in Egypt.”

Father Samaan now pastors the largest church in the Middle East and one of the best known in Egypt: St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church in the Mokattam garbage village.

The cave churches have become something of a tourist attraction as you can understand when you see this series of pictures of this extraordinary place and its extraordinary community.