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In Egypt's Nile Delta, Christian Doctors Run Hospital for Muslim Patients


Tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt often make headlines. The Christian minority is said to comprise 10 percent of the country's population. But the work of a group of Christian doctors paints a more upbeat picture of coexistence. The doctors run a hospital for mostly Muslim patients in Egypt's heartland, the Nile Delta town of Menouf.

The afternoon call to prayer permeates the predominantly Muslim Nile Delta town of Menouf as doctors examine patients at Harpur Memorial Hospital run by the Anglican diocese of North Africa.

Unlike most hospitals in Egypt, Harpur receives no money from the government and its staff of mostly Christian doctors works beyond the call of duty, caring for the hospital's primarily Muslim clientele.

Gynecologist Samir Bakheet runs the hospital. He says although most of his doctors are Christian, patients from across the region come because of the hospital's solid reputation. "All the people here, most of them, are Muslim but they prefer to come here because they trust the hospital," he said.

Dr. Michel Awad, an anesthesiologist, gave up a lucrative job in Cairo to come to Menouf. He says the hospital's founder, an Irish doctor named Frank Harpur, set an example in treating patients in rural areas. "He used to come from Cario using a houseboat, traveling down the branches of the Nile and then getting off shore to go see the patients and then going back to Cairo," he said.

Harpur founded the hospital a century ago. Dr. Awad says Harpur is remembered for eradicating a parasite that was plaguing the countryside.

"Enclostama is a small worm that feeds on the blood of the patients," Dr. Awad explains. "And he introduced this newly discovered medicine and it helped them. So they regained health, regained power, and went back to their villages."

Many of the patients at Harpur Hospital are children. Some are too shy to talk.

So the staff coaxes them, softly.

Anglican Bishop Mouneer Anis oversees the hospital. He says the doctors here are applying the Christian teaching of compassion. "In a way it gives us opportunity for us as Christians to serve our neighbor, the Muslims here," he said. "And to love them, real love, genuine love. Not just a love with hidden agendas. But a real love."

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