One of my Palestinian friends, an Anglican priest, had studied at ETSC, so I was conscious when I came here that while most of the students would be Egyptian, there would also probably be those from other countries too. Abdul is from Sudan and has been teaching at the Nile Theological College in Khartoum, but is now about to start his Masters programme at the Seminary. He comes from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, which he tells me is made up of 99 mountains each with its own tribe, language and customs. Some of the tribes are Christian and some are Moslem, but that has not been a problem and there are quite a number of mixed marriages (Abdul’s father is Moslem and his mother Christian!). The Nuba Mountains were not included in the area which made up the new country of South Sudan, but there has been an independence struggle for many years with many (both Moslem and Christian) fighting against the Government. The Government accuses the Church of supporting the rebels, which Abdul says is just not true, but three pastors are at present in prison, and Christians have been threatened and beaten. However, the spread of modern technology and the speed of communicating news have perhaps held the Government back from more extreme persecution.
Abdul moved to Khartoum at the age of 8 for medical treatment and stayed with his sister, who worked with a Christian school. After he received his treatment he could not return home as the fighting had intensified. He was sponsored to attend the same school where his sister worked, learned English and started to attend Sunday School. This had an enormous effect on him, and he became active in the church and was baptized. He worked well at secondary school and was given a place at one of the top universities in the country. However, before he could take up the place, he was required to do army service – which meant that he would have to fight for the government forces in the war against his own people in the Nuba Mountains. Understandably he refused to do this, and thus lost his university place. Instead he immersed himself in church work and ended up working for a Christian organization which helped him to pay his way through a private university to get his degree. He was responsible for youth work in his church, and in 2008 he entered the Nile Theological College to train for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church. After graduation in 2012 he was selected to continue as a lecturer (it was the time that South Sudan became independent, and many of the staff at the College left for South Sudan). The Sudanese Ministry of Religious Affairs now demands that lecturers have a higher degree, even a Doctorate, so Abdul has come to Cairo to pursue his Masters, and he hopes to focus on the introduction of Christianity to Sudan (In the early Middle Ages, Christianity was the dominant religion in Nubia, modern-day Sudan). Abdul is married Nesreen, who has studied law and is hoping to study for a Theology degree at ETSC, though she would have to stay on an extra year in Cairo after Abdul returns to Khartoum. Abdul is being helped with his studies by Church of Scotland as part of its policy to bolster theological education in Sudan and South Sudan.