In 1968, when Egypt was experiencing something of a political, social and economic crisis, the image of the Virgin Mary was seen above the dome of a Coptic Christian church in the Cairo suburb of Zeitun.
Mary's image was seen first in April 1968, a month after workers had gone on unprecedented strike in another Cairo suburb, by two Muslim watchmen at a garage across the road from the church. The apparitions recurred for five months, for hours on end, and more than a million and a half people claim to have seen Mary during this time. There was no verbal message received, but many Egyptians interpreted the apparitions as a message about Egyptian unity and peace, and as testimony to the power of the spiritual realm.
Again, in December 2009, a Muslim neighbour of a Coptic Church in Giza, Egypt's third largest city, claimed to have seen a light over the Church from the vantage point of the coffee shop over the road. Over the following days, 200,000 people, Christian and Muslim, shared his observation-and took it as a sign of difficult times to come, when unity would be a challenge to the Egyptian people.
So, where is Mary now, when Egypt is again in a time of crisis? Mary has been one of the strongest symbols across the Middle East for unity, across religions, tribes and nations. In fact, Mary has made an appearance in another trouble spot, Syria.