Thursday, August 5, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Angels and Demons

Father Makary Younan, performer of exorcisms in Egypt
While this blog has a decent amount of posts on Islam, there was a thread recently mentioned on Cairo Scholars about exorcisms performed in a part of Cairo (Moqattam). As I have heard there are also Islamic exorcisms, I will not delve into that subject matter as I am unsure what it entails, reportedly Christian exorcisms are conducted in the place where I recently visited (please refer to the Medinaat ez-Zabaleen post titled Channeling Indian Jones).

A recent thread posting on Cairo Scholars had someone inquiring as to where these exorcisms take place, followed by many responses wanting to conduct a “field trip” as though this were a touristic attraction. I have to admit that I was a bit offended by the lackadaisical responses with very little regard to the religious context. For instance, would you consider going to a mosque during Friday prayer snapping pictures, laughing uncontrollably, and talking throughout the prayer? If so, then you clearly have no respect for others’ religious beliefs because I, too, find that very disrespectful.

Father Makary Younan, an Orthadox priest preaching in Morkosia Church in Azbakia, performs regular exorcisms, or the practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person. He received his B.SC of Science and Pedagogy in 1957 (although his website does not mention from what institution), Diploma in High Studies in 1964, B.SC of Clerical Faculty in 1974 and was ordained on July 18, 1976.

While I have not personally witnessed an exorcism, nor do I ever hope to, I want to point out that I do not recommend anyone either basing their exorcism knowledge on the Exorcist movies and/or going for touristic purposes. I grew up in a very religious area/household and would consider myself to still hold true to the core fundamentals of what I have been taught (minus the theatrical aspects that are prevalent in many religious institutions). And while I am not here to give you my personal beliefs, I will tell you that the mere idea of an exorcism frightens me.

I also want to state that the Catholic Church rarely authorizes exorcisms as it is seen as very dangerous, and the Church even revised the Rite of Exorcism in January 1999. Accordingly, the ritual assumes that the possessed person may retain their free will, but a demon may hold control over the physical body. I also want to state that many exorcisms are performed by overly zealous individuals without strong proof that the devil may, in fact, exist within the person. While many stories exists on exorcisms gone wrong so to speak,  here is a recent story of a 10-year old Malaysian girl tortured in an exorcism rite.
Paul and Jan Crouch of regularly disputed TBN
I was quite surprised to find that Father Younan had a website that was available in English and in Arabic. While I am uncertain if Father Younan is taking monetary donations and cannot personally account for his religious work, I do want to point out that I am leery of anyone who broadcasts exorcisms, not to mention how many he appears to conduct so freely. Anyone familiar with Paul and Jan Crouch, creators of the TBN network (a religious cable channel)? They hold continuous fundraisers in order to place a new satellite somewhere in Africa to allow live feed to come into these poor communities (never does TBN state how many tvs are available in said communities to actually receive transmission, but I digress). Please note how much plastic surgery, undoubtedly financed by monetary donations received, that Jan has clearly had – not to mention the estate they live on in Texas.

Whether or not you believe in God, the devil, or religious text is clearly your right, but exercise respect in knowing that this is not a tourist attraction but a religious belief that while you might not share it, others do. And in saying that, do not disregard their beliefs as something to scoff at.
“Where God has His church, the devil will have his chapel” ~Spanish Proverb

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