The following is attributable to Acting USAID Spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala:
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator John Barsa visited the Arab Republic of Egypt from October 6 to 8, 2020, to emphasize the commitment of the United States to international religious freedom and inclusive development. Deputy Assistant to the President (DAP) Sarah Makin and USAID Chief Advisor for International Religious Freedom Samah Norquist also joined the Acting Administrator in Egypt.
On the first day of the trip, Acting Administrator Barsa, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan R. Cohen, and DAP Makin visited several historic sites in Old Cairo that the American people, through USAID, helped preserve by lowering the groundwater and installing sewer lines. These included the Amr Ibn El-Aas Mosque; the Ben Ezra Synagogue; and Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the Hanging Church, where they met His Grace Bishop Youlious of Old Cairo. The discussion with His Grace included the status of the Christian Coptic Community in Egypt.
The delegation also met with faith-based organization Coptic Orphans, which has helped over 5,000 girls in Minya, Assiut, and Sohag Governorates to develop skills to become leaders in their communities. The Acting Administrator, Ambassador Cohen, and DAP Makin then visited Flat6Labs, to meet with young entrepreneurs to learn about their business plans and successes. Financed by the United States through USAID and the Egyptian American Enterprise Fund, Flat6Labs is the leading business-accelerator in Egypt, which has helped 106 companies create 7,450 jobs. The day concluded with the launch of a new $3 million award that will go to the El Nidaa Foundation for Integrated Development and CEOSS for an Intercommunity Girls’ Empowerment that will reach 1,500 youth, parents, and community leaders in Upper Egypt to support economic development, promote understanding between religious communities, and strengthen girls’ access to education and employment.
On the second day of the trip, Acting Administrator Barsa, Ambassador Cohen, and DAP Makin met with the Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation, Her Excellency Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, and announced the U.S. Government will invest an additional $22.8 million in assistance into the five-year, $113 million bilateral agreement between the United States and Egypt to improve the investment environment and empower women to join in the labor force.
The delegation met with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque and University, His Eminence Ahmed El-Tayeb, Ph.D., thanking him for his commitment to speaking against extremist ideology and projecting a consistent message on interfaith dialogue and Egyptian unity. After, they met with His Eminence Shaykh Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, Ph.D., the Grand Mufti of Egypt and discussed his inspirational work encouraging interfaith dialogue, condemning sectarianism, and countering online extremism. They also met with faith-based organization Stephen’s Children, which promotes unity through interfaith education and is led by 2019 International Women of Courage recipient Maggie Gobran, or “Mama Maggie.” The delegation also toured the Bassatine Cemetery, a beneficiary of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. The delegation visited al-Azhar Park and met with the Aga Khan Development Network to see how U.S. investments helped transform the park into a communal green space and incorporate U.S.-funded water reservoirs that provide clean drinking water to 30 percent of Cairo’s residents.
The final day of the trip brought the delegation to Minya, in Upper Egypt, to meet with local partners that are advancing religious freedom and economic development to benefit all Egyptians. In Minya, together with Ambassador Cohen, the delegation met with representatives from the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), youth, and local religious leaders to see how a decade of U.S. investment has helped diverse groups join together to develop their community. The delegation also met with young women from Minya who received scholarships through USAID to study at Egyptian universities. The United States has provided scholarships to thousands of Egyptian students over the past four decades to help them acquire the skills needed in Egypt’s labor market.
Before the delegation’s return to Cairo, Acting Administrator Barsa paid deepest respects on behalf of the Trump Administration and the American people, during a visit to the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland, in Minya, which was named in honour of the 20 Copts who were brutally beheaded by Daesh on the shores of Libya. He spoke to Father Abnafyus about the Church’s moving retrieval of remains and the role of the church in local society.
The delegation ended the trip with a visit to the USAID-funded project that lowered groundwater threatening to damage the Sphinx and the Pyramids, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The Acting Administrator saw firsthand the positive impact of U.S. support for Egyptian efforts to preserve Egypt’s antiquities for future generations, as well as help drive the strong engine of tourism. The U.S. government through USAID has provided assistance valued at over $100 million since 1995 to conserve monuments and masterpieces spanning the full range of Egypt’s long cultural heritage – from Pharaonic times to the late Ottoman period.