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A Bird’s Eye-View of the History of
The World Day of Prayer

Bethel-Emmanuel has always been a supporter of the World Day of Prayer fellowship.

The World  Day of Prayer (WDP)  is an International  as well as an  Inter-denominational Christian movement. It started in the nineteenth century in the USA, and is today initiated and carried  out by women in more than 170 countries and regions. Each year, on the first Friday in  March, a celebration  takes place, the program of which has been prepared by a different country. 

                                                                                                                                                                         In Egypt,  the  World  Day of  Prayer  was  first celebrated  in 1928  (under the leadership of the  late Mrs. Aneesa  Habib Said,  and  others who are  now in glory),  in  response  to the agreement  reached  during  an  International  Missionary  Conference  in   Jerusalem, that world-wide participation would be a bond of unity among  women.  The Presbyterian Church  in  Egypt,  also  known  as  the  Coptic-Evangelical  Church, was  the  first  to  implement  the  international  program, and  was followed by other churches  here and there. By 1940, owing mainly to the efforts of the late Dr Martha Roy, there were already many  churches  all  over  Egypt  celebrating  WDP.  The  international  program  was translated into Arabic, and was adapted to suit the needs and customs of the local Church,  nation-wide.   Because  of  the  presence  of  many  expatriates  from  different countries, there was also another group which celebrated WDP in English.  

In 1957, a committee of  Egyptian women met  together to plan for the 1959 international  program which Egypt had been invited  to write for the rest of  the world.  The theme for that program was John 9:38, “Lord, I believe”,  and on the title page was a drawing of the Coptic Cross. In 1959,  the World  Day of  Prayer coincided with the first  Friday in Lent, an important day in the calendar of  the  oldest  Church  in  Egypt—the Coptic-Orthodox Church.  Hence  the  form  of  service for that year was enriched by incorporating certain prayers from the Coptic-Orthodox liturgy.

It  was  not  until  1970  that  a  Fellowship,  which was both inter-denominational  and international, was formed, which met regularly once a month  throughout the year, and not just in January and February to prepare for the March program. In 1971, this united group came to be known as the Women’s Ecumenical Fellowship, and it was this group which planned the 1975 international program [the second to be prepared by Egypt]. Its theme was based on John 17: 22 “Become Perfectly One”.

By then, Egypt was already enjoying full participation in the Global WDP.  In  1974,  Dr. Mary  Fadel  was  elected  to  represent  the Middle East on  the International Committee    and  from  1978 to 1982,  she  was  the  Chairperson  of  that Committee.   Dr Mary Massoud was elected for a three-year term to represent the Middle East  from 1983 to 1986,  and re-elected for another term.  In 1990, she was followed by Mrs. Yousriya Sawiris for one term, then Mrs. Nadia Menis for two terms from 1999 to 2007, then Mrs. Lucy Naguib, serving her first term till July 2012. At the Quadrennial International meeting held in New York in June 2012, Mrs  Camelia Basta was elected to be Lucy’s successor for the next four years.

Today,  the Women’s  Ecumenical  Fellowship,  also  known  as  the  National  WDP Committee of Egypt, is the group which translates the international program into Arabic, then plans, prepares, and carries out the program  in services in the Arabic language all over Egypt, and  in  the  English language in one service  in Cairo, and  occasionally in another service in Alexandria. Each of these various services is followed by a social hour. It also plans and carries out the children’s program, sometimes  taking  place  in Sunday School (or Friday School). The  translated  Arabic  program  is  usually  sent  to several Arabic-speaking countries  in the Middle  East,  and  sometimes  to  one  or two Arabic-speaking communities in Europe (when they ask for it). Although planned and organized by women, the March celebration is always open to the whole family, not just to women.

This national  group  consists  of  two sub-committees: one meeting in central Cairo and holding its monthly meetings in English,  and the other meeting in Heliopolis (suburb of Cairo),  and  holding  its  meetings  in  Arabic.   At  least  twice  a  year  these  two  sub-committees  come  together  for  fellowship,  and  to  decide  on  major issues, mainly the translation,  publication, and  promotion of  WDP  programs,  decisions about the use of the offering including support for the International Committee, and also the planning and organization of retreats and conferences.  Besides this national Committee meeting in Cairo, there are several  other  local  fellowship  groups, meeting in the provinces, chiefly in Alexandria, Tanta,  Minia, Sohag, and Assuit.     

Past and Present Activities:

* Helping in  promoting  interchurch  understanding  by  planning  and  carrying  out ecumenical events, such as concerts in which choirs of several churches present their message through song.

* Encouraging and promoting the attendance of women at the World Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, organized by the Catholic Church, and annually taking place in January.

* Sharing information about, and promoting  active  interest  in  various denominational activities, such as the Catholic Holy Year, the Episcopal Social Welfare Projects, and the charity bazaars of the Coptic-Evangelical Rabita .

* In anticipation of a past upcoming International Women’s Year, and wishing to call attention to the potential of women for Christian service, the group appointed a delegation, headed by Dr Marie As’ad, to meet  H.H. Pope Shenouda III  to discuss suggestions from him in this regard.  The delegation  met  his  Holiness  in  October  1984, and discussed ways in  which the  Fellowship  could  be  useful  in  serving  the  women  of  Egypt. Through  his guidance,  the Fellowship embarked  on  a number of welfare activities, still taking place.

* Sending  delegations  to,  and  receiving  reports  from  members of  the group who are invited to  participate  in interchurch  and/or international Christian conferences, such as:

        - Women’s Seminar in Beirut in 1973, nine members.
        - Seminar sponsored by the World Council of Churches in Berlin in 1975, one member.
        - International Workshop for  WDP in Mexico, October 1974,  3 members.
        - Assembly of Church Women United in Tennessee, USA, Oct 1974, three members.
        - Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Nairobi, Kenya, Nov.1975, two members.
        - Assembly of Church Women United in Purdue, July 1984, two members.
        - WDP  Switzerland 75th anniversary  celebration, Aug 2011, one member.

* Planning  and  carrying  out  WDP  orientation  receptions  for  overseas church women  visiting Egypt mainly as tourists, and wishing to meet Egyptian women.  The most recent took place during 2012, 2013 for 5 different groups from WDP Germany.

WDP Conferences in Egypt:

We have organized, with the support of the International Committee, several workshops. In recent years, the following are important landmarks:

* National Workshop at St Mark’s, Alexandria  22 - 27 July 1993
Theme: “Created in God’s Image”
Purpose: More fully realizing and achieving our potentialities as women in God’s service.

* Middle East Conference at Gouna  25–30 January 1996
Theme: “God Calls Us to Respond”
Purpose: Understanding our role in the context of other Middle East WDP fellowships.

* National Workshop at Ras Sadre 3-6 October 2001
Theme:  “Talitha Koumi: Renewal and Empowerment”.
Purpose:  Ongoing renewal of the National Fellowship through the empowerment of the present membership, and also through the empowerment of a younger generation to carry on the banner.

* National Workshop at Anafora 26 – 29 May 2011
Theme: “Streams in the Desert”
Purpose:  Equipping participants to write the 2014 material for WDP world-wide.    

Our Vision for the Future:
We envision a growing Fellowship, constantly facing up to the challenges of the day, and constantly renewed and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.  Our greatest challenge at the moment is responding in prayerful action to the Egyptian Revolution which started on 25 January 2011. We believe that God will use the dramatic situation in the country for His glory, and to bring many more people to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

We feel honored that Egypt [for the third time] has been invited to write the international program for 2014, and are most thankful for the highly resourceful leadership of Eileen King, then  Executive  Director  of  WDPIC, under whose guidance it has been produced.

Upcoming Writer Countries:

2015 the Bahamas: "Do you know what I have done for you" (Jn 13:12)

2016 Cuba: "Receive Children, Receive Me" (See Mark 9:36)

2017 The Philippines: "Am I being unfair to you?"

2018 Suriname (in South America):"All God's creation is very good."

To God be all the glory.

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