New Non-Profit Launched to Support St. Catherine's Monastery
The Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery (FMSM) is being launched today to support Saint Catherine's Monastery in South Sinai, Egypt. Though the new Egyptian government, elected last year, has worked hard to restore stability to the country, the economic situation of the South Sinai in particular continues to be tenuous in the aftermath of Egypt’s political upheavals.
FMSM was founded in response to the many supporters of the Monastery who wish to address its current needs. As an IRS 501(c)(3) charity, donations to FMSM are tax deductible. The FMSM board/staff is entirely volunteer. The board includes a retired CEO of a successful Silicon Valley start-up company, a physician in the biopharma industry with a Stanford MBA and experience as a CFO, and a monastic attached to St. Catherine's.
His Eminence Archbishop Damianos of Sinai and abbot of the ancient Greek Orthodox Monastery says, "St. Catherine’s Monastery is not an institution that can be compared with any other. The global community has been drawn to this holy place through the humbleness and hospitality of the monks and their struggles to maintain the ideals of the early ascetics who came to live on the holy site of Sinai. While the Egyptian government has taken every measure to assure the well-being of the Monastery and the uninterrupted spiritual life of the monks, challenges to South Sinai tourism have seriously impacted the economic stability of the region. This in turn has resulted in increased difficulties and pressures on the Monastery. Aside from the general unrest in the middle East, this is owed to the fact that news of extremist actions taking place in the North Sinai is typically presented in the Western media without geographic reference to “North Sinai,” which leads to the misconception that these attacks are taking place in the South where the monastery is located”.
“The great and difficult journey into the desert is something desired by all who value inner peace,” says Archbishop Damianos. “Therefore the monks consider the continued operation of the monastery a duty not just to themselves, but to the visitors who reach this wilderness from all corners of the world – formerly in numbers surpassing 200,000 a year – hoping to experience the stillness that exists between the soul and God amidst such remote beauty. Immersed in the tranquility of this natural setting that was sanctified by the divine Presence, one discovers that the voice of God may still be heard.”
His Eminence observes that while the Sinai monks have no wish to burden others, even very modest contributions go far in Egypt. Together with the prayers of the faithful, he says, these will sustain the Monastery in its spiritual goals, which value the peace of one’s neighbor as much as one’s own.
As a result, the Sinai Monastery has been recognized as a historical force for stability in the region. Instrumental to its unbroken history of peace with its Bedouin neighbors is the Sinai Monastery’s emphasis on personal freedom based on tolerance through non-judgment of others. The founder of Islam, Muhammad himself, visited the Monastery and granted it a charter of protection in the seventh century, which was reaffirmed by subsequent rulers.
The local Bedouin have maintained close ties to the Monastery throughout history, as they trace their lineage to families sent to protect the Monastery by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who built the present day fortress in the sixth century at the base of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The Sheikh of the local Jebeliya tribe was quoted last year in the Egyptian press, saying "The peace that has existed between the monks and the Bedouin people has made Sinai an emblem of peace" that has served pilgrims and visitors of different faiths, languages and culture.
St. Catherine's houses a collection of ancient manuscripts that is second only to the Vatican’s, as well as the greatest collection of Byzantine icons in the world. Many of these were featured in the highly popular series of exhibits on Byzantine art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and comprised a complete exhibition, “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai,” at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2006-7. As is known, the international St. Catherine Foundation, founded by Prince Charles of Great Britain, works to fund the conservation of these collections, but is not equipped to handle numerous smaller donations for the daily operation of the Monastery.
Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery is a parallel organization, focused on supporting the daily operations, projects, and continued existence of the Monastery, whose singular example serves as an inspiration to those of all faith backgrounds.
Friends of Mount Sinai Monastery (FMSM) is a Sec. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, whose purpose is to provide support and financial assistance to St. Catherine’s Monastery in South Sinai, Egypt. St. Catherine's Monastery is a center of ancient Christian spirituality whose spiritual, cultural, and educational contribution to world civilization over the past seventeen centuries is unparalleled, both through preserving its heritage as a living tradition and sharing it with global society. In the process of providing support, the non-profit organization will also be a resource for those seeking information about St. Catherine's Monastery. The website for FMSM is: www.mountsinaimonastery.org.
Sherry El-Gergawi, 13 Apr. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.