Comment on the on-going situation in Egypt

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by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom - 16August 2013

As a clergyman for over twenty years, and a Christian for the whole of my life, one thing I recognise as un-debateable is the value and sanctity of human life. We believe that God has created us all in His image and likeness and has given us a rational and reasoning spirit to be able to experience and understand Him while at the same time appreciate and value His creation.

What we have witnessed on the streets of Egypt over the past weeks, and particularly earlier this week, is nothing short of devastating. To see so many lives lost whether of victims or perpetrators is not only a loss to families and communities, but a loss to the nation and to humanity as a whole. At this point and without reservation or exception we offer our prayers for all those who mourn; those who have lost loved ones, who have been injured, or who feel more powerless than they did.

That which distinguishes us as humans from any other creation is that we are not merely territorial or instinctual beings but are created with the ability to feel compassion and empathy and to share in both the joys and the sufferings of those around us.

It is without a doubt that we are witnessing a struggle in Egypt, looking very different depending on the perspective and direction from which it is viewed. This is understandable as it is the nature of human reasoning, conflict and interaction. What is incomprehensible however is that a difference of opinion can lead to the justification of, and sometimes the rejoicing in, the loss of even a single sacred human life.

While there may be numerous initiatives, political or otherwise, to resolve the current conflict in Egypt, it is obvious that the only real way ahead is for restoration of peace and an application, albeit slow and gradual, of true reconciliation within a now fractured community that has seen loss of life and a heightened sense of lawlessness and impunity. The one element that will always work against any of these initiatives or intentions however is the rhetoric and incitement that leads to the ‘justified’ attack on others.

Over the past weeks we have witnessed an increasing trend of anti-Christian rhetoric calling for, as I stressed in my latest statement, ‘the attack upon and eradication of Christians and churches’ in Egypt. The result of such incitement, at least in part, has been the unprecedented attack on fifty two churches and numerous Christian homes and businesses across eight governorates in Egypt within the space of twenty four hours. One must wonder what end this could possibly serve. To inflame against a significant part of a community, alienating and marginalising it, means that one also potentially loses the proactive and positive input of that same part.

Over the past year we have seen an increased marginalisation of Christians and minority groups in Egypt followed by what some see, in these attacks on churches, as intentional instigation of anger attempting to prompt a retaliation that would lead to a spiralling pattern of violence. If this indeed is a ploy, it will of course fail, as it has been proven over centuries that the nature of Christians in Egypt is not to retaliate but rather to continue striving as loyal and law-abiding citizens of their indigenous homeland. While Christians in Egypt have been accused of being Western sympathisers and seeking Western intervention for decades, in actual fact what we have witnessed in our contemporary history and in particular over the past few weeks, is quite the opposite.

While we recognise that the priority now is for the peace and restoration of order in Egypt as a whole, the unprecedented attack on fifty two churches carried out almost simultaneously over a brief twenty four hour period, indicating a premeditation and co-ordination that goes beyond sporadic acts of instantaneous anger, requires thorough investigation at the appropriate time. If we were to find, however unrealistic, that these acts were indeed sporadic, this would point to a much greater concern for the community and a much greater need for a proactive programme of reconciliation and cohesion leading to healing over the longer term.

We continue to pray for Egypt, comprised of her ninety million Egyptians of various religions, beliefs, and outlooks, praying that a much needed peace and wisdom descends upon all. We further pray that Egypt, a land once blessed by the Lord as a place of refuge for Him in His infancy, returns to being a nation for all, and not one governed by some, to the exclusion of others.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos is one of the Christian Muslim Forum's founder Scholar-Consultants. His statement (original available here) is reproduced for wider circulation on behalf of the Christian Muslim Forum to show our solidarity with Christians and Muslims in Egypt.

See also this statement by Anjum Anwar MBE (President, Christian Muslim Forum) and Revd Shannon Ledbetter Women Unite to Pray for Peace

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