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Bishop Angaelos

12 July 2013

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 Coptic Church.

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."

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