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ACN Project of the Week: Help to complete the new church in Egypt

23.04.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, egypt

Egypt

Help for the completion of a new church and community centre in Abnee Baitak

 

Info from ACN International Projects Department
Poste online April 23, 2020

Abnee Baitak is a new satellite suburb of the town of Madinat as-Sadis min Uktubar, the “Town of the 6th of October,” itself, a relatively new satellite town close to the capital, Cairo. Abnee Baitak was built by the Egyptian government above all in order to provide living space for young families.

What this new suburb still lacks however, is a Catholic church. The nearest Catholic church is over 20 km away.

In 2015 the Egyptian Prime Minister granted a building permit for the construction of the Catholic Church here. Since it is far from easy to obtain such permits in Egypt, work began immediately on its construction. ACN helped at the time with $45,000 and now the building work on the new church and attached community centre for the various pastoral and social activities of the parish is well advanced.

In order to complete the work as quickly as possible, we have received another request and we are stepping in again with a further contribution of $45,000.

Thank you so much for your help in completing this project!

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Feature Story: Egypt – Five years on

14.02.2020 in egypt, Persecution of Christians

Egypt – Five years on

 

Shrine honours 21 Coptic martyrs

 

Special collaboration –  Engy Magdy
Adapted by ACN Canada  
Published on the web February 14, 2020

 

The shrine to the 21 Christian men beheaded by ISIS on a Libyan beach in February 2015, will hold an exhibition on Feb. 15 honouring the men and marking the fifth anniversary of their death. Twenty of the men were Coptic Orthodox Christians from Egypt. The 21st victim was a Christian from Ghana. They have been declared martyrs by the Coptic Orthodox Church.


The exhibition documents the men’s story, from the time of their abduction to the return of their bodies to the village of Al Our, in Egypt’s Minya province, where the shrine is located. Visitors will be shown the orange jump suits the men wore when they were beheaded, tools with which they were caught, some sand on which their blood was spilled, and the specially made coffins that hold their remains.

Mother of two brothers, Samuel and Beshoy, 22 and 24-years-old, who were among the 21 martyrs.

In an interview with pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, the mother of two brothers, Samuel and Beshoy, 22 and 24-years-old, who were among the 21 martyrs, said: “I’m the mother of martyrs, I’m proud of them. They intercede for me and their father in heaven.” She said she is praying for ISIS followers, calling on “God to give them the light and open their eyes to the truth and the good.”

 

In Egypt 2020, martyrs shrine honors 21 victims of ISIS on fifth anniversary of their death. An exhibition documents the men’s story, from the time of their abduction to the return of their bodies to the village of Al Our, in Egypts Minya province, where the shrine is located.

“Our martyrs were praying before they died.”

 

Before the release of the ISIS video “that showed the killing of my brothers and their colleagues, our family and the church in our village of Al Our had spent 45 days praying for them, as we knew of their kidnapping,” said Basheer, the brother of Samuel and Beshoy. He added that “God talked through their cries of ‘oh Jesus,’” as recorded in the video.

 

“Our martyrs were praying before they died; it was obvious that they were calling on Jesus. That gave us comfort and made us proud. Those 21 were fortunate to be martyrs for Christ and our community is honoured” to have custody of their bodies, Basheer said.

 

He continued: “My father and mother felt relief when they became sure that their sons had kept their faith in Jesus Christ, who gave us much relief and comfort. My brothers have given us courage in the face of persecution; we are never afraid and never worry anymore.”

 

Miracles that have been attributed to martyrs

 

“The Coptic Church has a long history of martyrdom and has gone through many ages of persecution throughout its history.” Said Father Abu Fanus Unan, who serves at the shrine, which is housed in the newly built Church of Faith and the Homeland. He told ACN: “We are proud of the blood of these martyrs who refused to recant their Christian Faith.”

 

The Coptic Church honours many martyrs who died in centuries past, but the priest testified to the powerful impact of the witness of “contemporary martyrs who refused to recant the name of Jesus Christ. Their example strengthens our faith.”

 

The shrine is preparing to publish a book documenting miracles that are attributed to the martyrs’ intercession. “There are many miracles in the village attributed to them. A woman with cancer was cured after her prayer at their shrine,” reported Father Abu Fanus, who added that many people were baptized and became Christians because of the example of the 21 martyrs. “The Coptic Church survives thanks to the blood of her children,” the priest said.

 

The remains of Matthew Ayariga from Ghana are still in Libya. The Libyan ambassador to Egypt has promised the body will be transferred to Egypt once the political situation in Libya stabilizes.

Coptic Cross on Bishop Bishay’s house, Luxor, Egypt

ACN News: Egypt, Situation of Christians seeing improvement

02.12.2019 in egypt, Persecution of Christians

Egypt

 

Situation of Christians seeing improvement

by Fionn Shiner, ACN International,
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted online, December 2, 2019

 

After decades of persecution ‘things are getting better’ for Egypt’s Christians. Despite the ongoing threat of extremist attacks in Egypt, the situation is improving for the country’s Christians according to Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, who expressed his hopes to Aid to the Church in Need for Egypt’s Christians.

 

“We thank God that the situation is getting better. The president [el-Sisi] has goodwill towards the Christians. He is a president for all Egyptians,” said the bishop. But the threat of extremist attacks continues, with Islamists wanting to make Christians fearful of losing their place in Egyptian society.

“Attacks happen from time-to-time perpetrated by Islamists. The goal is not only to attack Christians but also the Egyptian government,“ he emphasized. “They want to say to Christians, ‘the government cannot protect you. You should leave Egypt.’”

“They [the extremists] would like to establish an Islamic State but in Egypt it will never materialize. Egyptians are close – Christians and Muslims are too united for the extremists to cause problems.”

 

Building churches more accessible, but abductions still happening

 

“There has been a mentality since 1952 that treats Christians as second-class citizens. Now, some change has happened and things are getting better,” added the bishop. “Building Churches is easier than before. We don’t have to wait years to get a church built.”

 

According to Bishop William, this is a marked change – for more than 160 years, Christians had to get permission from Egypt’s head of state for new church buildings.

 

Coptic Christian girls are still abducted with some reports suggesting the police facilitate the kidnappings. “In areas where the Islamic organizations are strong they are happening but in our area it is not much of a problem.”

 

World Watch Monitor interviewed a former member of an Islamist network who actively targeted Coptic girls before he left Islam. The kidnapper said: “A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christian houses and monitor everything that’s going on. “On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around the girls.”

 

Thank you to ACN!

Bishop William expressed gratitude for ACN and its benefactors, which provides Mass Offerings, training of seminarians, church restoration, and more to Egypt.

 

“We appreciate very much what ACN is doing in many countries to keep Christians in their homelands,” said Bishop Kyrillos. “We thank all benefactors for their help and donations to ACN so we can realize our dream of keeping Christians in the Middle East.”

ACN FEATURE STORY – Christians being kidnapped in Egypt

17.06.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Engy Magdy, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom

ACN FEATURE STORY – Christians being kidnapped in Egypt

In January of last year, Adeeb Nakhla, a Coptic Christian, was kidnapped by an ISIS affiliate group in Sinai, Egypt. Since then, there has been no news of his whereabouts or condition. A relative of Nakla’s shares the story with Engy Magdy of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  Here is what they said:

Egypt 

‘We fear torture and savage death’

by Engy Magdy, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website June 17,2019

 

On January 17, 2019, around 9am, Nakhla, 55, was traveling from Ismailia to Al-Arish to visit relatives, when a militant Islamic group stopped the minibus he was riding in and checked the national identity cards of those on board. The cards state religious affiliation, and when the militants saw that Nakhla was a Christian, they asked him to get out of the vehicle. He was taken away.

 

A city under siege

 

Nakhla had fled Al-Arish two years ago, as did dozens of Christian families who moved to Ismailia after receiving death threats. A relative, who spoke to ACN on condition of anonymity, said that many Coptic Christians who chose to stay were slaughtered: “We left Al-Arish in 2017, after terrorists killed seven of our neighbours. Among the dead were a father and son; they burnt their bodies and their home, and the mother, Nabila, was forced to watch. She is severely traumatized.”

 

Last year, Nakhla’s family returned to Al-Arish, where family members work and own property; Nakhla stayed in Ismailia for his job. Nakhla’s relative said: “We had to return to our home and work. We were unemployed in Ismailia, and we lived on aid from the Church. Conditions in the city have improved thanks to the Egyptian army’s stepped-up campaign against terrorist groups, though it is still dangerous on the road.”

 

He continued: “Militants affiliated with ISIS have staged ambushes on the highways and launched attacks on civilians and security forces. The Muslim driver of the communal taxi Adeeb rode in said that militants stopped the vehicle and started to check national identity cards. When they saw that Adeeb was a Christian, they asked him to get out. Our biggest fear is that they may abuse, torture, and kill him, just as savagely as they have other Copts.”

 

Violence towards Coptic Christians in Egypt has increased since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Most attacks have occurred in northern Sinai, where, according to the Gospel, the Holy Family entered Egypt. In 2012, unknown assailants issued a handwritten statement demanding that all remaining Copts leave the border city of Rafah; since then, a number of local Copts have been kidnapped and killed by terrorist groups.

 

Egypt: A paradox

 

Terrorist groups are still very much present in Egypt.  However, the paradox finally revealing itself is good news, for since 2016, the authorities have regulated, restored or built 984 Christian places of worship.  (Source: Église dans le monde)

 

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – A library for a Catholic centre in Egypt

16.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, egypt, Project of the Week

Egypt

Equipping the library in the Diakonia Development Center 

Sheraton-Heliopolis is the name of one of the newer suburbs of Cairo that did not even exist a few decades ago. Named after the original Sheraton hotel, close to the international airport, which was at first the only existing building there at the time, it is now a busy suburb of over 400,000 people.

 

The Catholic Church has established a pastoral centre here, named the Diakonia Development Center, to serve the various pastoral and social needs of the Catholic parish community. It is here that the children and young people of the Good Samaritan group also meet.

The plan is to establish a small library in the centre for the 150 or so children and young people who regularly come here, mainly to help them become more familiar with the Holy Scriptures. For it is especially important for them, as a religious minority, to have a sound knowledge of the Bible, since they are often asked questions and need to be able to respond in a coherent and clear way.

Sometimes the questions are put to them in a deliberately provocative or manipulative way, making it very important for these Christian children to deepen and extend their knowledge of the Scriptures from an early age, and especially to cultivate a good understanding of those passages in the Bible that are often used or abused by non-Christians to attack their faith.

 

Finally, it is very important for these young people and for their own personal development to be able to understand how God leads them and guides them by his Providence. In this way, they come to know Jesus Christ better and believe more deeply in his love. For as Saint Jerome wrote, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

 

ACN has promised $5,285 to furnish this library!

 

https://secure.acn-canada.org/donate/donation/#utm_source=MAIN_WEBSITE&utm_medium=DONATE_BUTTON&utm_campaign=REDIRECTS

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

 

Egypt – “My mother was killed by a terrorist while she was helping him”

03.05.2018 in ACN Feature, egypt, Engy Magdy, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East

Picture: Bullet hole in portrait of late Pope Kyrillos VI, in corridor of St. Mina Church in Cairo

Egypt

“My mother was killed by a terrorist while she was helping him”

Testimony of the daughter of one of the victims of the attacks in Cairo last December.

 

Gunmen attacked worshippers leaving a Coptic Orthodox church on the southern outskirts of Cairo on Dec. 29, 2017. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place some 10 minutes after the conclusion of Mass at St. Mina Church and killed nine people. One of the victims was a young mother, Nermeen Sadiq. Her 13-year-old daughter Nesma Wael was at her side when she was shot. Nesma gave the following account of the ordeal to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“After Mass ended, I left the church with my cousin and my mother. My mom wore a cross around her neck, and all three of us were not wearing veils. In poorer neighbourhoods, Muslim women often wear veils so they are distinguished from Christian women.

“As we turned into a side street, we saw someone on a motorcycle heading toward the church. The next thing we knew, the man crashed his bike after hitting a pothole. My mother ran up to him to help, reassuring him, as she said: “In the name of Jesus Christ, are you okay?” He got up quickly and in the blink of an eye he opened fire on us with an automatic weapon he pulled out from under his vest.

Egypt, Cairo 2018: Nesma (13) and her sister Karen (8). They lost her mother during an attack in December 2017. “This is my message to all the persecuted people around the world: ‘Do not be afraid! Our lives are in God’s hands and we have to adhere to our faith.’”

 

“As soon as my cousin and I saw the weapon, we hid behind Mom, who shouted at us to run away; the terrorist first shot her in the arm, while she was trying to protect us; as we ran away, she fell down and could not escape with us. The distance between us and the terrorist when he first took out his machine gun was no more
than a few feet. My cousin and I ran into a small supermarket, where the sales girl hid us behind the refrigerator; from our hiding spot, we watched the attacker looking for us. When he couldn’t find us, he turned to Mom again and fired more shots at her.

“All this happened in a few minutes. After the gunman left, we ran to my mother. Many people had gathered, but they all refused to touch my mom, to turn her over, even though she was still alive. I kept screaming for someone to help me, but no one did. I reached my uncle, who came right away.

“An ambulance pulled up, but the emergency workers refused to move Mama into the ambulance until they got permission from the security officials who were out in the streets, hunting for the terrorist, as well as another shooter who had attacked people in front of the church.

“A gun battle erupted, and people fled. My cousin, my uncle and I stayed with my mother. She looked at me, saying: “Do not be afraid, I’m with you. Obey your father and take care of your sister.”

“My mother remained lying in the street for about an hour. After the shooting stopped, I went back to the church to fetch my younger sister Karen, who is eight, and had remained in church because the service for children had not finished yet—I saw three people I knew lying in pools of blood in front of the church; I knew they had been killed.

Candles in a coptic orthodox Church in Cairo

“By the time mom was taken into the ambulance she had died.

“Today, I do not walk the streets alone anymore. My father always goes with me anywhere. Despite the pain inside my heart—I miss my mother desperately—I am happy because she is a martyr and I don’t feel afraid of the terrorists anymore. I was with her at the time of the attack and did not even get injured: it was God’s will to specifically choose her to go to heaven.

“I do not want to leave my country, but I certainly want to find a better chance to live and study, especially since our financial situation isn’t good. My dad, who is 35, works as a driver, but he has no regular work; my mother provided the main source of income for our family; she was a nurse at the Cairo Kidney Center. I hope to become a doctor of nephrology; that was my mom’s dream for me.

 

“This is my message to all the persecuted people around the world: ‘Do not be afraid! Our lives are in God’s hands and we have to adhere to our faith.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Egypt: “Help our faithful to stay”, asks Coptic Pope

29.03.2018 in ACN Interview, By John Pontifex, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Persecution of Christians

Coptic Pope: ‘Help our faithful to stay’

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church has called on a Catholic charity to redouble its efforts to help Christians stay in the Middle East. Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II made the plea at a meeting with Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), during a visit to Egypt. Pope Tawadros said: “I would ask you please to support the presence of Christians in this land and in the Middle East.

“Christians are a vital presence – and a buffer in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shi‘as. “Please do not help the Christians to leave, but help them to stay.

Egypt, 22. March 2018
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II (© Aid to the Church in Need), during a visit to Egypt.

“Everyone needs the stability which comes with the presence of Christians.” Aid to the Church in Need is supporting projects in Egypt, including repair of churches and convents – particularly those destroyed by extremist violence in 2013 after the fall of President Morsi –, assistance for youth work, and Mass stipends for priests. ACN is also helping Christians to stay in Iraq by rebuilding towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains destroyed by the extremist group Daesh (ISIS).

At the meeting with Mr. Kyrke-Smith on Tuesday evening (20th March), Pope Tawadros said the attacks by Daesh and other extremist groups on Egypt’s Christians were intended to destroy the good relations between different groups within Egyptian society. He said: “The situation in Egypt has improved and is more stable…

“The attacks in recent years were not so much attacks against Christians, Muslims or security forces, but attacks against national unity. “The attackers wanted to destroy unity – but we stand and we pray … trying to give an example like Jesus Christ with an open heart and open arms for all.” Pope Tawadros also stressed the importance of building bridges not only with other Christians, but with other faiths, stating that the visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman earlier this month, was of “great significance”. He said the April 2017 meeting with Pope Francis was important for both Churches.

He went on: “It was very good to pray together with the heads of the Churches in Egypt in the chapel of St. Peter at St. Mark’s Cathedral.” Pope Tawadros added how welcome he had felt when he visited Rome in 2013 and first met Pope Francis. Mr. Kyrke-Smith also met with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak, who also said that there were signs of change for the better. Patriarch Sidrak said: “Recent developments including the visit of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Pope’s meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the visit of Pope Francis are important steps of hope for all Egyptians.

“Pope Francis gave us a lot of encouragement – the prayer service involving Pope Tawadros in the chapel of St. Peter at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria was very significant, as was the Mass held at the sports stadium in New Cairo.”

 


 

ACN Press Release – Pope Francis in Egypt

27.04.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Mario Bard, egypt, Jesuits, Journey with ACN, Pope Francis

Pope Francis in Egypt

“Re-knitting ties with Islam”

 

Montreal, April 27, 2017 – Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit priest and specialist in Islam, and a professor at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Rome, visited the Canadian national office of Aid to the Church in Need last Thursday (20 April 2017). An Egyptian himself, born in Cairo, he gave us this interview in light of the forthcoming visit of the Pope to Egypt. We asked his views on the papal visit, on the importance of dialogue between Islam and Christianity and the fear of seeing the Middle East emptied of Christians. Here are some extracts from the interview.

Father Samir: Pope Francis wants to ”Reknit the ties with Islam”.

 

He spoke to Mario Bard of ACN Canada.

 

ACN: What would you say to Pope Francis in regard to his approaching visit to Egypt? Would you tell him to stay in Rome or to go ahead with his visit?

Father Samir: Being the man he is, I think he must go. He is not someone who is afraid. At the same time, considering the possibility of an assassination attempt, I believe that Egypt will do the impossible to protect him and ensure that there are no dangerous elements around – if only for their own sense of honour. Looking at it this way, I think that everything should go ahead normally.

And besides, there is the character of Pope Francis himself, who might well say, “I’m not afraid of anything and I am in the midst of the people. And if I should die, well, I am like anyone else, simply because I happen to be in this place [where there is an attack].” So that might explain why he has decided to go ahead with his visit.

Moreover, for a long time now he has wanted to reknit the ties between the Vatican and Islam. And this is what he told me personally when I had a half-hour conversation with him a few months ago. He told me, “Why is it that I insist on the fact that Islam is a religion of peace? Because we need, first of all, to rekindle our friendship with the Muslims and with Al Azhar.”

 

Why is it necessary to “re-knit our ties.” What has happened?

Let me recall the context: there was the attack in Alexandria on the Coptic Church at Christmas, six years ago. Someone blew himself up and there were dozens of deaths. A few days later Pope Benedict XVI, in a meeting with the ambassadors of the Holy See, said: “I call on the president of the Egyptian Republic to protect the Christians.” In response Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the rector of the Al Azhar University, declared that it was unacceptable for the Pope to interfere in Egyptian politics and broke off relations with Rome. Today, after a number of fruitless attempts, relations have resumed. And it was the principal aim of Pope Francis to re-establish relations with Islam and with the Al Azhar University in particular, which represents the majority of Muslims in the world – 80% or so. It represents an unassailable moral and intellectual authority for them.

 

Father Samir, why is it important to maintain an interreligious dialogue with Islam?

First of all, because Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.5 billion Muslims scattered in almost every country of the world. We cannot ignore it. Second, because Islam is a monotheistic religion, alongside Judaism and Christianity. And hence we have to be able to engage in dialogue with them. That is the essential aspect, I think. It is not a question of a political goal. It boils down to saying: let us endeavour to understand one another. In just the same way as we maintain a dialogue with the Jews.

 

People are saying that the Middle East is in the process of being emptied of Christians. What can be done to change the way this pattern? Even many Muslims do not want this situation to come about.

Most Muslims say, “We need the Christians.” Recently there was a radio broadcast in Egypt which impressed everyone. The theme of the eight-minute programme was the Christian schools which educated the intelligentsia of Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries.

People can also see Lebanon, which is the only country in the Arab world with a certain degree of parity, precisely because it was the Christians who built it – even though today they represent no more than 35% of the population. In the Parliament the Muslims want to retain the balance of 64 Muslims and 64 Christians, because they maintain that this is essential. It is recognized by all Muslims who think about it.

Besides, as to the disappearance of Christians in the Middle East, in Egypt it is they who are, so to speak, the indigenous ones! People are aware that if they wish to maintain the national conscience, they cannot eliminate the Christians. Unfortunately, for reasons that are political, economic and religious, the Christians are leaving, more and more. And what is happening at the moment is what is wanted by ISIS/Islamic state/Daesh. But they are fanatics. Globally speaking, the Muslims are not fanatics. They lack the courage to say that these people should be arrested. Instead of that they say: ‘it has nothing to do with Islam’, which resolves nothing. But in their heart of hearts, the majority of Muslims say, “no, it is shameful!”

What we must do now, if they are to stay, is to help them so that they can stay in their own homes. In Egypt that is not a major problem, owing to the large number of Christians (almost 10 million). But in Iraq and Syria, where the homes of the Christians have been destroyed, it takes enormous courage to stay on in the country. That is what the patriarchs are doing, including Patriarch Sako of the Chaldeans, of Babylon. He is fighting with all his strength to prevent the Christians from emigrating, to encourage them to remain, to save the local Church. And it is the same thing in Syria.

We have to help them to stay on. To help them financially as far as we are able, but also to help them morally by supporting them and attempting to put a stop to this crime which is ISIS.”

Aid to the Church in Need is helping 3000 young people from all over Egypt who will travel on pilgrimage to Cairo to be present for the visit of Pope Francis on 28 and 29 April. Their visit began on Tuesday 25 April and includes liturgical celebrations in various shrines on the road to Cairo, celebration of Holy Mass, confessions and a visit to the hospitals in Cairo the day before the arrival of the Pope. The group will include 250 representatives from every Catholic diocese in Egypt, in addition to the 1,000 participants from the capital itself.

 


 

Egypt – Pray for the affected families!

11.04.2017 in By Eva-Maria Kolmann, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II led the funeral for the victims of a bomb that exploded on 11.12.2016 during Sunday Mass
in a chapel at Cairo’s main Coptic Cathedral.

Egypt 

“Pray for the affected families!”

Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut has called on the Christian faithful throughout the world to pray for the victims and families of the suicide bomb attacks on two Coptic Orthodox churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday yesterday (9 April), which claimed the lives of at least 44 people and have left a further 120 or more wounded.

He added that he himself has received numerous messages from all over the world, following the attacks, promising prayers and sympathy for him and for all the Christians of Egypt. “Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time,” he told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Essentially, it had not been altogether unexpected that there would be further attacks, he added. The attack in December 2016 on the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Cairo, in which nearly 30 people were killed, had been widely seen as a harbinger of things to come. “Our sense of security was not very strong,” Bishop Kyrillos explained. Nonetheless everybody had still been “surprised” by the attacks on Palm Sunday, since it was never possible to predict when and where such attacks would occur.

The bishop emphasized that both on the part of the state and on the part of the Church there is the intention to strengthen collaboration in order to be able to better protect the Christian churches. “I was visited by a security official who asked me what we need now. He made the suggestion that we could train young people and adults, so that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security. Here in Assiut there are 550 Christian churches. Thank God, nothing has happened here so far, but we are too little prepared for such events,” Bishop William acknowledged.

Images from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo/Egypt on Sunday, April 7, 2013: Funeral ceremony for the victims of violence.

Asked about the danger of an exodus of Christians like that in Iraq or in Syria, Bishop Kyrillos expressed the conviction that these attacks would not create any large-scale exodus of Christians as a consequence. “In Egypt the people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims. There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere,” he added. However, he believes that the intention of the terrorists is to destroy this solidarity.

Asked about the planned visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, scheduled for 28th and 29th of April, Bishop William described this as “more important now than ever.” He is convinced that the trip will not be called off, since the Pope has  “shown the courage, precisely in such situations, to come and strengthen the people.” He is confident that the Pope will send out a clear message of peace.

 

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International
Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada


 

 

ACN Interview – Meeting between the Pope and Grand Imam

07.06.2016 in ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Journey with ACN, Pope, Pope Francis

Egypt

The ice has been broken

The meeting between Pope and Grand Imam received very positively in Egypt

 

Following the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of the Sunni al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayeb, on May 23 at the Vatican, hope soared in Egypt that the meeting would bring Christians and Muslims closer together.

 

“It was the first time that the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University visited the pope. It was clearly a very cordial meeting. You could see that from the body language and the familiarity between the Pope and the Grand Imam.

“We believe that this has broken the ice in the relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar University,” Father Rafic Greiche, the chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said Wednesday, June 1, in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “The resumption of official dialogue, which was suspended by al-Azhar University in 2011, may not have been explicitly announced yet, but that is just a formality. I am firmly convinced that talks will resume.”

Father (Antoine) Rafic Greiche, a Greek Catholic priest and the press spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Egypt. The departure of President Morsi has been seen as ''God's miracle''.

Father (Antoine) Rafic Greiche, a Greek Catholic priest and the press spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Egypt. The departure of President Morsi has been seen by Christians as ” a God’s miracle”.

 

The most important Islamic institution of Egypt, which is highly respected throughout the Sunni world, had unilaterally suspended bilateral talks with the Holy See in 2011. The reason given for this was Pope Benedict XVI’s public admonition to better protect religious freedom in Egypt. Al-Azhar University considered this to be an inadmissible interference in the internal matters of Egypt. The former Pope made the statement in response to the bloody attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day in 2011 where 21 were left dead and more than 70 were wounded.

 

It concerns all Christians 

 

Father Rafic talked about the positive response to the meeting on the part of Egyptian media. “The meeting was headline news both on television as well as in the newspapers. In general, the comments were very positive.” Father Rafic then said that the encounter not only has an interreligious dimension, but also an ecumenical one. “The head of the Coptic Orthodox church, Pope Tawadros, had encouraged the Grand Imam to begin a dialogue with the Catholic Church on numerous occasions. A meeting like this and the resumption of talks naturally not only has an effect on the relationship between Muslims and Catholics, but also all Christians.”

 

The situation is really improving for Christians! 

 

Father Rafic emphasized that under the leadership of Grand Imam al-Tayeb, al-Azhar University is making an effort to reform the schoolbooks and textbooks used at the schools and institutions of higher education it oversees. “They are trying to use a new language with respect to us Christians. But there is still a lot left to be done. This is a process that will take years. However, it would be more critical to change the mindset of the imams than to change the books,” Father Rafic said.

 

Project trip of Agnieszka Dzieduszycka and Ilona BudzbonFather Rafic emphasized that the situation of the Christians in Egypt has vastly improved since Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted in July of 2013. “There is no comparison between the situation today and that during the government of the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, we have very good relations between church leaders and government agencies. However, there are still many problems, of course. But it is my impression that Muslims are growing more aware of our situation,” the Greek Catholic priest said. “Of course, the most pressing matter for us is the question of church building projects. This has been subject to massive restrictions up until this point. Five churches have now submitted draft legislation to parliament. President Sisi asked us to prepare a draft law. We hope that this parliamentary session will still deliberate upon and pass the draft legislation by October.

 

After all, we have never had as many Christian members of parliament and so many Muslims on our side. It will of course be opposed by the Salafist members. But there are not many of them. And so I am confident.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the Catholic Church in Egypt for many years. In addition to numerous pastoral projects, it also promotes the building of churches.

 

Project trip of Agnieszka Dzieduszycka and Ilona Budzbon

 

By Oliver Maksan, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian office