THE General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Angaelos, last week welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “wise and measured statement” expressing concern about the fate of Christians in Egypt (News, 21 October).
Speaking at a press conference in Westminster on Thursday of last week, Bishop Angaelos said that he thought “there is more behind” Dr Williams’s statement, “but we all know the difficult position of the Archbishop and that he doesn’t want anything he says to instigate any sort of religious tension . . . but I also know his heart on this.”
Dr Williams’s statement followed clashes between Coptic Christians and the security forces at a demonstration in Cairo on 9 October, in which, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) say, 26 Coptic Christians were killed.
Bishop Angaelos said that footage of the demonstration, which was in protest at the burning of a church in southern Egypt, showed “not a single image of a demonstrator holding a weapon”. The chief executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, who visited Cairo earlier this month, said: “The ethos of Christians in Egypt is one of peace. I am certain they were there on a peaceful demonstration.”
Bishop Angaelos said that the Coptic Orthodox Church was not calling for an international inquiry, but an independent Egyptian judicial inquiry. He said that the Church had been “misquoted” by Egyptian media to suggest it was calling for an international inquiry He warned: “We will take . . . very strong steps against anyone who says that, because we are not going to be termed as traitors again in our own country.”
At a press conference earlier this month, the Egyptian military denied responsibility for the deaths. “My concern is, from the primary knee-jerk reaction of the military, that this is really not being taken very seriously,” Bishop Angaelos said.
Mr Thomas said that the Coptic community, which makes up about ten per cent of Egypt’s population, worried “that the hopes for a free and just society for Egyptian citizens of all faiths, which were high in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, are slowly fading”.
“Skeletons”. The Jubilee Debt Campaign last week said that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, ignored the “skeletons in the UK Government’s cupboard” by not mentioning Egypt’s “£100-million debt to the UK” when he met politicians in Cairo on Thursday of last week. The organisation said: “The debt has been inherited by Egypt from [Hosni] Mubarak. It is owed to the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), a unit of Vince Cable’s Department for Business. The ECGD claim that they no longer have information about what the loans were given for. Ministers’ refusal to audit the debt has led to suspicion that they are afraid of uncovering irresponsible lending practices on the part of the ECGD.”