Usually when a mission partner is commissioned, they are presented with a Bible in the language of the country/ region where they are going to serve. In my case, I was told to pick one up locally, so it gave me a good opportunity to visit the Bible Society of Egypt. It is situated in a modern five storey building, which has a superb bookshop on the Ground Floor. The First floor is devoted to Bible World, which seeks to introduce children and young people to the way in which the Bible has come to us, progressing through a series of five rooms, which deal with things like original languages, manuscripts, translations and the printing press. All very interactive, and the children I met were certainly very enthusiastic about it. They had to translate a biblical verse from Greek into Arabic using a simple key, print a page of the Bible and take part in a computer quiz at the end. Good fun, but also very educative. Another floor is given over to publishing. Printing and distributing the Bible is the Society’s raison d’être, and it is the largest publisher of the Arabic Bible in the world, but the Bible Society is always seeking to discover new ways of presenting its message, both in print and also in other forms of media. Given the high illiteracy rate in the country (over 25% in 2014), the production of DVDs is important. I found their work incredibly creative, and one book on the Sermon on the Mount uses Arabic calligraphy to good effect in putting across the phrases from Matthew. One example is ’You are the light of the world’ pictured below, where these words in Arabic are formed into a flame.
Another picture uses the graffiti common to the Arab Spring to illustrate ‘Let your Yes be Yes, and your No be No.
With a full time staff of 220, the Bible Society has 14 bookshops around the country, and it is the one place where people from all the different denominations can meet on ‘neutral territory’. Certainly during my visit I met a Coptic Orthodox priest and his wife from Paris, as well as a member of the large Egyptian Diaspora in the States. The Society has been headed for the last 25+ years by Ramez Atallah, whose energy and enthusiasm for his work suggests he will go on for another 25!