BISHOP ANGAELOS of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in
the UK addressed the General Synod on Tuesday morning on the
dedication of three days of prayer for Egypt.
He expressed his thanks for the opportunity to address the
Synod. He had been explaining to some friends a "bit of a
quandary": this week, Dr Morsi had been expected in England, a
"quite alarming" prospect. Should he, the Bishop, meet Dr Morsi,
and thus give credibility to his leadership, or refuse to meet him,
and thus compromise the Church? He joked: "I was praying for a
solution. I did not expect it to be quite so decisive."
Historically, Egypt after the Pharaohs had been Christian, a
place of refuge for the Lord himself; it had encompassed and held
him in its heart. There was a "rich heritage of monasticism,
protection of faith, and martyrdom".
The Bishop was not "playing a victim card", because martyrdom
was a form of power, a witness. Most proud Copts would claim that
they had a right to Isaiah 19, which blessed Egypt: "My challenge
is that that was written before Christianity in Egypt; so the whole
nation is blessed."
He went on to give some statistics about Egypt to the Synod. In
the past two years, the stock market had reached a low, there had
been 33-per-cent unemployment, and 5500 strikes or related
protests. Economic growth was at two per cent, debt was 85 per cent
of GDP, there was increased inflation and fuel shortages, crime was
up tenfold, home invasions were up 66 per cent, car thefts had
tripled, and there had been greater attacks on churches and
Christians than in the previous 20 years, culminating in an attack
on the cathedral.
The media had consistently insisted on calling recent events a
"military coup". But the people who had "marginally democratically
elected" a leader had also issued a vote of no confidence because
of the state that the country was reaching.
There have been tensions, clashes, and attacks on all
communities, including the destruction of Sufi shrines, and an
attack on Shiite Muslims. Egypt had "gone from the state of a
fragmented nation into a completely polarised one, where one
section of the community has wanted to take over the whole".
The international community should avoid "trying to impose or
export a certain kind of democracy, and saying it is the only way
to do it".
The media had used terms such as "intifada", and "makeshift
field hospital" to give the constant idea that Egypt had become a
battle zone: "it has not."
He quoted the Bible: "A kingdom divided cannot stand but fall."
He said: "We have had years of division. I have called time and
time again for pragmatic and intentional leadership that leads us
to a cohesive state to build a nation and national reconciliation,
and to provide for all. . .
"Reconciliation is what we do as Christians. . . The presence of
Christ in Christians in Egypt and in the Middle East is a power in
itself." There was a witness in the Council of Churches in the
ministry of Bishop Munir, and in the papal selection process in the
Egyptians were a "very devout, religious people, and that is a
wonderful thing. We have to get away from the model that religion
brings people apart. Actually, it brings people together."