Egyptian churches play matchmaker role as Christian marriages decline


CAIRO – An old church is criticized for trying to help single members, men and women, get married.

The Blessed Virgin Mary Church Twinning Program in Maadi District, south of Cairo, asks members who wish to marry to fill out a form with information about themselves and what type of life partner they are. they wish to have.

Program managers rank applicants and then try to match matching men and women. They then organize meetings, and candidates who are attracted to each other can take serious engagement steps under the supervision of the church.

But the program provokes the ire of some members of the Christian community, around 10 percent of the Egyptian population of over 100 million.

“I totally reject such a program because it demeans Christian girls and treats them like a commodity,” Kareem Kamal, a leading Christian activist, told Al-Monitor. “This is the first time that the church has played such a role.”

However, many other churches are entering the field of twinning, prompted by a sharp drop in the number of marriages among Christians in Egypt, the largest minority in the Arab Middle East. A Christian who gets married these days is becoming a rarity, observers say.

Statistics on marriages in the Christian community are hard to come by, but the same observers say the rate is dropping dramatically. “There is a notable drop in the number of marriages among Christians in the country,” Christian lawyer Mamdouh Ramzi told Al-Monitor. “It all comes down to current economic conditions. “

Egypt is doing well economically, according to official figures for economic growth, the exports and production. However, the same growth has been accompanied by a continued increase in commodity prices.

“The prices of food and housing are increasing dramatically, while wages remain the same,” Nadia Radwan, professor of sociology at the University of Port Said, told Al-Monitor. “This makes it difficult for a large number of men and women to marry.

Marriage has its specificity in Egypt. A spouse has to buy or rent an apartment, buy most of the furniture for the wedding, and pay most of the wedding expenses. Radwan says many young men have to save for at least ten years to get married.

The Covid-19 has also had an impact. In his attempt to fight infections, Christian Pope Tawadros II decided in April last year to limit the number of people who can attend church wedding ceremonies to six, in addition to a priest and deacon.

Priests at Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Maadi say parents who pray at the church have requested the twinning program. “Most churches have similar programs,” a church priest told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We give young men and women the chance to get to know each other under the supervision of the church.”

In addition to containing personal information and a personal photo of those applying to the program, the form filled out by these applicants also includes information on the various personal, physical and educational qualifications of the partners they are seeking.

The church also holds seminars and invites all applicants to discuss a wide range of social and religious issues. As they speak, these participants demonstrate their level of education and some of their personal traits. Afterwards, the men can go to the organizers and ask for a meeting with one of the women present.

St. Mark’s Church, also in Maadi, has a similar twinning program. More than 400 people attend, according to Isis Habib, a church employee responsible for organizing these events.

“Men tend to outnumber women, who are always shy to attend such events,” Habib said. She added that men and women of all ages come to her church to participate in the twinning program.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, which is followed by the vast majority of Christians in Egypt, declined to comment on the twinning program. However, the church sponsors another program to help men and women of marriage age choose the right partner. Senior church priests talk to young people about who they should choose to spend the rest of their lives with.

Some churches, according to Ramzi, offer financial support to marriage applicants.

Nonetheless, it angered people like Kamel. “The church has a religious role to play and it should not deviate from this role,” Kamal said. “Churches play a social role, including running schools and hospitals, but they cannot turn into dating agencies.”

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