When Dr. Dorothy Jean Weaver, professor of New Testament at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, planned her sabbatical a year ago she intended to be teaching at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) this week. Instead she is in the United States. Weaver traveled to Egypt in early January and intended to teach for three weeks beginning February 3. Her plans were cut short when the January 25 revolution began.
Weaver was staying at ETSC and was relatively sheltered from the protests. On January 25 and 27 she was out in the city during the day but only saw one small demonstration. However, on the 27th she was traveling by taxi when the taxi driver told her “Don’t go out tomorrow,” meaning Friday, January 28th. From living and traveling in other Middle Eastern contexts she knew that Friday was the day that Muslims gathered at the mosques and was generally when unrest happened.
She took the taxi driver seriously and returned to the school on Thursday evening and did not leave again until Tuesday, when she made her way to the airport for a flight out of Egypt.
Finding a way out of Cairo quickly became her chief concern. Since she was alone in Egypt, without a group of mission workers or traveling companions it became more difficult to exit the country.
A friend suggested that a flight out by the US State Department might cost $6000 and that she should not travel to the airport without a ticket. Finally, she was able to get her name on the list of people that US State Department flew out on February 1. The $6000 price tag did not turn out to be true.
She was flown to Istanbul, Turkey where she then went through the difficult and expensive prospect of finding a flight home.
“In truly ironic fashion, the first three flights listed on the internet had layovers in Cairo. I obviously ignored those,” Weaver said.
After a long journey home Weaver is still thinking about her students at ETSC. The school has been closed since January 25 and will reopen next Monday, February 21. The school has an undergraduate and graduate level program in pastoral studies. Currently 240 students are enrolled at ETSC. In 2002, Weaver taught a course at the undergraduate level. This year she was to teach a graduate level course. ETSC trains pastors for churches all around Egypt.
Weaver received an email from Atef Gendy, the president of ETSC on February 3 that read, “On New Year’s eve, Egypt was blustered by the bombing and killing of 23 Christians as they were leaving mass at one of the large Orthodox Christian Church in Alexandria. For the first time among similar incidents, the majority of citizens responded in grief and anger… That day I realized that Egypt was not the same any more. People were getting impatient with the lack of transparency and fake handling of serious situations.”
Weaver said, “I have hope that the new government that will be created in Egypt might be fair to minority and Christian groups. The previous government created a lot of challenges for Christian churches in Egypt. However, since the demonstration included both Muslims and Christians I hope good progress could be made on interfaith relationships in that country.”