Egyptian Christians welcomed a very special guest at a recent celebration for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Cairo. Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohn from Germany spoke at the event, which was held on 18 November and also featured a powerful performance of worship songs through the ages.
The Bishop, who is chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) council (the body representing Lutheran and Reformed Churches), gave an inspiring message about the relevance of the Reformation today and the hope that spiritual renewal brings in a troubled world. He spoke movingly of the freedom found in Christ and the joy and service to others that follow, saying:
When people freely engage today in commitment to their needy neighbours, they live exactly the free love Luther talked about in his time. At the 500th Reformation jubilee, we are celebrating not only a historical moment but also the ongoing story and power of liberation through the love of Jesus Christ.”
The service at Kasr el Dobara Evangelical Church (KDEC) was attended by more than 50 members of the Egyptian Parliament and representatives from many international churches and organisations. SAT-7 ARABIC broadcast the service, bringing Bedford-Strohn’s words to a wider audience across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
“AMBASSADORS OF PEACE”
The Bishop also spoke of how Christians should encourage a public culture of grace and about the need to strengthen human rights in Egypt. Asked by a SAT-7 staff member if he felt the need to bring a particular message for the MENA, he said:
“The most important message for us is the message of faith and love. If we are Christians, we need to speak about the love of Jesus Christ and to be engaged in the world… This is especially important for the Middle East, where there is so much violence and conflict. We need to be ambassadors of hope, peace, and reconciliation.”
The Bishop ended his speech with some special words for Egyptian believers, saying:
“I express my great respect to our sisters and brothers in Egypt, who witness the Gospel of the love of God through Jesus Christ today. Thanks for your witness. Thanks for your courage. Thanks for your commitment for a better world.”
PRAISE THROUGH THE AGES
The celebration included a beautiful performance of popular hymns spanning the past five centuries. The “500 years of praise” medley, sung by the Cairo Celebration Choir and the Evangelical Churches Choir, included more recent hymns written in Arabic, such as “Increase Your Praises to Christ”.
The congregation also heard from the President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. In a remarkable closing speech, Rev Dr Andrea Zaki thanked Egyptian Muslims who have supported Christians during difficult times.
After the service, Rev Sameh Maurice, KDEC’s Pastor, spoke to SAT-7 about the impact of the Bishop’s message of freedom.
“It is important that these thoughts were shared today… and heard in our community,” he said.
The whole Arab world is in conflict, and what is happening is a real clash. The message was so profound.”