Category: SectarianUpon an invitation form the President, Pope Tawadros II today headed to the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, east of Cairo, to meet President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. The Pope was accompanied by a delegation of bishops and clergy. The delegation included Anba Raphail, Secretary-General of the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, as well as the bishops Anba Hedra, Anba Pola, Anba Lucas, Anba Pimen and Anba Macarius; and the priests Fr Angaelos Ishaq and Fr Boulos Halim. Three members of the Coptic laity participated: Aida Nassif, Kamal Shawqy, and Eissa Girgis.
Even though the meeting lasted for an hour and 20 minutes, the spokesman of the Coptic Church Fr Boulos who also participated in the meeting, gave no details of what took place apart from saying that the meeting included detailed discussions between the President and Pope around the unity of Egyptians and stability of Egypt, but that these discussions did not touch upon the recent spat of attacks against Copts or upon the draft law for building churches. He said the main theme of the meeting was that all Egyptians should work hand-in-hand to resist divisions, and that Egypt’s future, which the spokesman said was the topic of extensive talk by the President, was at stake.
The spokesman for the Presidency, Alaa’ Youssef said that Presient Sisi insisted that Egyptians were all one before the law, and that diversity and plurality were the mainstays Egypt was built upon. Egyptian Christians, he said, have been famous for time-honoured patriotism, fortitude and wisdom; characteristics they have exercised in dealing with the challenges that have confronted Egypt during the last few years.
The President said that all the new urban areas, towns and cities Egypt was now building will include places of worship for Christians as well as Muslims. He again stressed that for Egypt to realise the bright future Egyptians aspire for, all attempts at division should be thwarted, and that this required the joint effort of the religious institutions, al-Azhar and the Church.
Pope Tawadros thanked the President for his initiative, and for his efforts to consolidate the value of citizenship rights. He also applauded the State’s huge work in rebuilding the churches that were ruined during Islamist terrorist attacks.
Coptic lawyer and activist Joseph Malak told Watani that the meeting was a positive step that expressed the presidency’s concern for Copts, especially given that it was held upon initiative from the President. He said that, coming in the wake of a series of attacks against Copts, the meeting reflected the President’s interest in relaying to the Copts his sympathy with their suffering and anger, also his intention to do something about it. It thus remained to be seen, Mr Malak said, how the goodwill materialises in decisions that would bring justice to the Copts.
It is too early to gauge Coptic public opinion on the meeting of President and Pope since the meeting was unannounced and many are not yet aware of it. But among those who followed up on it, there was little satisfaction with the scarce, general information published on the matter. “Is this all what took place for close to one-and-a-half hours from the precious time of the President and the Pope?” a young Coptic working woman asked. “We expected something more concrete, such as decisions to put an end to the violence against Copts. All we got was predictable, courteous talk.”
A middle-aged Coptic man who works with the government described Fr Boulos’s statements as tantamount to an expression of silence. “It practically says nothing,” he said. “Does Fr Boulos expect Copts to be happy with it? Yet it is possible that what really went on will not get into the media. This would not surprise me, given the divisive manner in which the media generally tackles sectarian issues.”
28 July 2016