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Rev Julian Mann: Kew Gardens versus Garbage City, Cairo. The power of the Cross rings out in the slums


I have never seen as many crosses on people’s homes as I saw in the Coptic Mokattam Settlement, known as Garbage City, during a recent visit to Cairo. The sign of the Crucifixion of Christ proliferates among the garbage collectors.

When I was growing up in Kew Gardens in the 1970s, there were a lot of orange posters in the windows of private homes canvassing political support for a Liberal lady now in the House of Lords, a few blue, an occasional red. But I do not remember seeing any crosses. The Coptic garbage collectors, of course, do not generally have windows in their homes – the crosses tend to be displayed from the open ground floors of their dwellings amid the piles of rubbish.

But, provided the cross is not merely a symbol but a reflection of a living belief, the gulf in spiritual privilege between these Coptic Christians and the secularists of Kew Gardens is even greater than their respective material situations.

The Apostle Paul unforgettably summed up the spiritual difference between those who humbly rejoice in the message of divine forgiveness, which the death of Jesus Christ has made possible, and those who arrogantly reject it:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1v18 – NIV).

The Cross of Christ subverts human arrogance because it teaches us that we cannot save ourselves. Any human scheme for salvation, whether Islam or political correctness or liberal secular materialism or neo-conservatism, is bound to fail because it lacks the power of God. His power was demonstrated in His self-giving love in the crucified Jesus Christ when He paid the price of forgiveness we could not pay,

So, who is ultimately better off – the Christians of Garbage City trusting in the power of love or the self-worshippers of Kew Gardens trusting in the power of money? In the light of the Cross, the answer is both glaringly obvious and profoundly humbling.

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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