Egypt. Generating coexistence and fraternity

“We are laying the foundations for the future of this country,” Sister Odette Riad Ibrahim Abdelsayd, a teacher at Aswan Kindergarten tells us.

For six years I have been in Aswan, a city known for its beautiful location on the Nile and for Nubian culture which still enjoys a strong influence in the south of the country. I came here after a long, challenging and beautiful experience in South Sudan, a country that I love and always carry with me in my heart.

Both in South Sudan and now in Egypt I have always worked in kindergartens with the children entrusted to our care. Being with them is a beautiful thing but I must confess that now, at the age of 77 years, with much less energy than when I was young and many more pains, the work leaves me very tired. Missionaries do not retire, we continue to contribute with who we are and what we do, even if no great results are apparent.

In kindergarten, the pace of work is demanding for me, although I don’t complain and do everything with pleasure. On a normal day, lessons start at eight-thirty in the morning and end at one, although many children are already here at seven because their parents have to go to work early and first drop their children off at school.

The missionary commitment here in Aswan is teaching me to understand and live with acceptance, hope, and faith every day because I see many Christian and Muslim boys and girls who live together without making any distinction. In these meetings, they experience friendship and acceptance of the truth, transparently, because in their hearts there is no deceit and they do not identify any type of social, religious or political difference. They are all the same, they are all friends.

One of my greatest joys is seeing that the teachers who work with us have taken on the sincere experience of the values of the Gospel that Jesus speaks about toward the little ones. I am touched to see that they are women united by the care of our children and are interested in them as real mothers.

Faced with this, I am sad to discover that there are children from broken and poor families who they often do not receive affection and attention. It is not good that when they arrive at their homes, they do not find a continuation of the values that are taught and promoted in our kindergarten. There is a lot of violence in our environment, so at our centre we ensure that all children feel loved and welcomed.

A few days ago, the father of a Christian family came to the parish with his daughter for an activity. She did not want to stay in church and insisted that her father take her to kindergarten. This gentleman told me later that he was happy to see his daughter’s love for our nursery school, and it is a joy to see that fathers and mothers are happy with how children are loved and educated in our institution.

I am deeply grateful to God, especially when I see children enjoying spontaneity, acceptance, respect and freedom. Like the teachers, I believe that our kindergarten, named after Saint Teresa, is laying the foundations for the future and that the children of Aswan entrusted to our care grow in fundamental human values that generate coexistence and brotherhood. Thinking about this makes me forget my age and work like a young woman.

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