When I think of Cairo, I think of the Egyptian museum and their King Tut collection, the crazy traffic with no stop signs or stop lights and the breathtaking pyramids (the video below is footage I shot on my point-and-shoot camera in 2007) and the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Before I visited Cairo, I imagined that the pyramids were located far away from the city. In reality, getting to the pyramids is a relatively short cab ride from the center of town, and visitors to the pyramids in Giza can look down from the Sahara desert and see the city below. I happened to be in Giza during the call to prayer, and was filled with a sense of wonder when a magnificent soundtrack, perfect for accompanying a visit to one of the seven wonders of the world, floated up from the city to the desert.
The call to prayer occurs five times a day, and the call, coming from the city’s 4,000 mosques, fills the city with sacred sounds. Unless you are locked into a sound proof booth, you cannot miss the call. The call, in a sense, also is a daily reminder that 80-90% of Egypt is Muslim. But what about the other 10-20%?
Article 43 of the Egyptian Constitution extends some freedom of religion: “The freedom of belief is an inviolable right and the state guarantees the freedom to construct places of worship for monotheistic religions, as it is regulated by the law.” Some observers, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, note that this freedom is “quite tenuous.” And certainly, this is a time of change and uncertainty for many in the country.
I did learn about one thing that is inspiring, and reflects the respect for religious variety that is expressed in the Egyptian Constitution: there is a hospital in Cairo – Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 – that encourages people to respect other people’s faiths. Part of the hospital’s mission is to “cure kids with cancer for free regardless of race, creed or ability to pay.”
Tanenbaum’s CEO, Joyce Dubensky, learned a little about this remarkable institution when she met Sherif Hallaba, who is involved with the hospital and proudly shares how children from all across the Middle East and from every tradition from Jewish, to Muslim, Christian and Druse, are treated with the highest level care. He told her that many refer to Hospital 5737 as “the St. Jude’s of the Middle East.”
Here are excerpts from the hospital’s Patient & Family Bill of Rights and Responsibilities:
Children will “be treated with love and respect by everyone in the hospital no matter what age, skin color, religion, rich or poor.”
Palliative care must be provided in “a manner that respects the individual’s cultural, spiritual, and ethical needs.”
Parents can “exercise these rights without regard to sex, economic status, educational background, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or marital status, or the source of payment for care.”
Patients and the patients’ families “will treat everyone with respect and trust regardless of their gender, economic status, educational background, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability.”
Simply acknowledging that diverse religions require respect may not seem revolutionary to some but incorporating such statements about religion into a hospital’s policies in a country where religious restrictions persist is certainly bold… and exciting… and aligned with Tanenbaum’s vision and health care initiatives that train providers to understand how religion affects patient decisions and health.
Health care organizations like the Children’s Cancer Hospital of Egypt, that take bold steps during times of adversity, inspire Tanenbaum to continue imagining a more peaceful world that respects difference. We look forward to hearing more about their good work.
Assistant Director of Communications