HANDS and several partner organizations recently brought together a group of distinguished civil society representatives from Egypt and the U.S., including religious leaders, media professionals, NGO executives, social researchers and former diplomats. The Egyptian representatives had a chance to engage with their American counterparts in a series of panel discussions in the Washington, D.C. area. The discussion, co-sponsored by Hands Along the Nile, the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, Religions for Peace, and the United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ, covered a wide range of topics, including U.S.-Egyptian relations, the current political and socioeconomic climate in Egypt, and interfaith relations.
Together they engaged in a dialogue that was both informative and respectful. These two days of discussion panels refined the Egyptian delegates’ understanding of American views on relations between Egypt and the U.S. This understanding was beneficial in a series of round-table meetings in Washington, D.C. later that week.
Also included in the week of dialogue was a social element that fostered a true sense of camaraderie amongst the dialogue participants. Between discussion sessions both Egyptians and Americans were encouraged to network and build collaborative relationships. There was also a reception hosted by HANDS, as well as a dinner at the home of H.E. Mohamed Tawfik, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States. The bond that formed amongst the group contributed greatly to the depth and spirit of the discussion.
Following the dialogue event, the Egyptian representatives had the opportunity to meet with government officials and various D.C. area think tanks to exchange ideas about how the relationship between our two nations should look moving forward. They met with the White House Office of Faith-Based Partnerships, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the U.S. Department of State, and the staff of several members of Congress. The delegates entered the meetings with a desire to give a message to both the public and officials about the state of Egypt, but they were also interested in hearing U.S. perspectives. As Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, the General Director of CEOSS, said, “We are here to communicate, but also to listen.”
And that is exactly what they did. After voicing their opinions to U.S. civil society leadership and government representatives about a broad spectrum of topics, they returned to Egypt carrying several messages to relay to their circles of influence. Perhaps the most important message that both sides took from the experience was this: Egypt and the United States have a long-standing, complex, and fruitful relationship that is a priceless asset to both nations, and with the proper nourishment that relationship will continue to flourish for generations to come.