A recent meeting was held between a delegation of sheikhs from the Ministry of Religious [Muslim] Endowments (Awqaf) and representatives of the Evangelical Church in Egypt
A recent meeting was held between a delegation of sheikhs from the Ministry of Religious [Muslim] Endowments (Awqaf) and representatives of the Evangelical Church in Egypt, with the purpose of resolving the recent misunderstanding between them.
A short memorandum circulated earlier this month by the Awqaf Ministry to all the mosques affiliated to it and the sheikhs who serve there ordered that none of them was to deal with the Evangelical Church in Egypt without going back to the Ministry first. The Ministry’s move aroused huge criticism on the part liberals who call for more sympathetic relations between the Church and Islamic establishments.
Heading the Evangelical Church delegation in the recent meeting was the Rev. Dr Safwat al-Bayadi, and the Awqaf delegation was Sheikh Mohamed Abdel-Raziq. The meeting was organsied by the MPs of the civic bloc in the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament. Attending MPs included Nelly Fam, Kamal Soliman, Nadia Henry, Freddy al-Bayadi, and Abdel-Shakour Abdel-Meguid.
The Awqaf delegation explained that their memorandum had been misunderstood; it was not meant to downgrade relations with the Evangelical Church but, in the wider context of ongoing restructuring efforts within the Awqaf, to regulate the manner in which sheikhs dealt with the Church.
A joint statement was issued by the Awqaf and the Evangelical Church, in which the Awqaf stressed that the memo was not meant to reflect any censure of the Church, but was a measure of internal coordination. The statement confirmed the cordial relations between the Awqaf and the Church, and the keenness of both to honour these relations through the legitimate channels.
It was decided to form a joint committee for dialogue and building bridges. The Awqaf delegation announced they would be inviting the Rev. Dr Bayadi for a visit with the aim of working for more meaningful communication and understanding.
MP Henry later told reporters she was happy with the outcome of the meeting, saying that the candid dialogue was important for reconciliation to take place.
The Awqaf memo had given rise to conjecture that it was a result of the wide Ikhwanisation—++Ikhwan++ is Arabic for [Muslim] Brothers (MB)—of the State by the ruling Islamist regime at whose head sits President Mursi, and among the members of which is the new Awqaf Minister, the MB Talaat Afifi.
There was rampant conjecture that what brought on the memo was the famous coordination between the sheikh of Omar Makram mosque Mazhar Shahin and the Rev. Sameh Maurice of the Evangelical church of Qasr al-Dubara, both of which lie on the outskirts of Tahrir Square. Sheikh Shahin was suspended without any explanation on the part of the Ministry, giving rise to talk that he might have overstepped his limits.
18 April 2013