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Perspectives on Partnership: Ties Bind Joining Hands Amidst Revolutionary Struggle

Perspectives on Partnership: Ties Bind Joining Hands Amidst Egyptian Turmoil

Nancy Lister-Settle, Coordinator of Joining Hands in Des Moines Presbytery and Dr. Nabil Sisostres, Coordinator of Together for Family Development Egypt

Perspective from Des Moines

Egypt group

Group photo of TFD members, including Dr. Nabil Sisostres in the middle, with a few Des Moines JH Representatives, including Nancy Lister-Settle at the bottom of the stairs. Photo courtesy of Nancy Lister-Settle.

Some of the members of Des Moines Presbytery’s Joining Hands core group have been engaged in our partnership with the network in Egypt, Together for Family Development (TFD), since 2000.  Delegations have traveled back and forth between Iowa and Egypt many times.  We’ve gotten to know each other really well.  And we’ve shared success and disappointment over the years.  All of this in spite of the 6,363 miles between Des Moines and Cairo.  Of course we can credit advances in technology for our ability to stay in touch across this great distance.  But electronic communication can only help if there is already a strong relationship to facilitate.  We are partners who truly care about each other.

Soon after the TFD network was organized I added the link to an English language online Egyptian newspaper to the toolbar at the top of my computer’s home page.  Each week I would scan the news for articles, editorials and photos that related to the network’s campaign, and I would email links to our core group’s members.

Then, in January of 2011, news from Egypt was suddenly everywhere every day.  The Revolution of 2011 was the big story and reporters, analysts and pundits had much to say about what was happening in the streets of Cairo.  After a decade of learning from our Joining Hands partners to see events from a different perspective, I went to the internet to watch the revolution live, listening to reports from Egyptian journalists. 

Thanks to our long and deep friendships with individual members of the Joining Hands network, I asked and they told me of their own experiences as well as stories from the communities where they live and work.  These personal accounts allowed us to share both the pain and the hope of our partners during Egypt’s troubled transition. 

Over the past three years we in Iowa have felt the great frustration of watching our friends and a country we have come to love struggle so mightily.  We ache when we see violence erupt; we long for stability when disorder reigns; and we yearn for relief for those who suffer the effects of the dismal economy. 

We have also felt great admiration for the TFD network as they have persevered as a group to develop a new campaign during this time of turmoil.  The encouragement that comes from being part of the global Joining Hands network strengthens us all. 

Perspective from Egypt

You and meFreedom, social justice, wellbeing and self-dignity were the slogans of the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, which took the whole world by surprise.   For the almost three years now, Egyptians have been in the unique situation of working to define and decide what they really want for the New Egypt.

However, the visioning process for a new future has been plagued with instability, fear and insecurity, a lack of democratic leadership, distrust, and a lack of jobs.

TFD has been working towards positive democratic change through its work to improve civil society awareness and empower the poor and marginalized.

TFD has now focused its work on food sovereignty, and therefore some of the most vulnerable populations in Egypt, small farmers. 

During these trying times, our partners have reached out to us through emails, telephone calls and Skype, asking about our safety and offering us their prayers.  They have also visited us at times when it was precarious to do so. Twelve years of partnership with Des Moines Presbytery and the Presbyterian Hunger Program has given us so much support to weather these challenging times, reminding us of the old proverb, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”  

We are aiming for a fruitful future, and hoping for a new Constitution and a real democracy.

Egypt is not about you or me, but YOU and ME.  The rights of one should not threaten the rights of others.  We all deserve freedom, social justice, wellbeing and self-dignity.

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