THE outside world should keep open lines of communication with
the Christian community in Egypt, and visit the country as a way of
expressing support for the population as a whole, the Bishop of
Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, has said.
Speaking after a recent visit to Egypt, Bishop Langrish said
that there was a fine line between expressing solidarity with
Egyptian Christians, and speaking out in a way that would make
their plight more difficult. By staying in touch regularly, one
could "discover the real situation on the ground rather than what
one reads in embellished press reports".
On the basis of his latest visit to Cairo, he said, he "saw no
reason not to travel to Egypt at present. It is a pity that people
are cancelling their holidays there. By going to Egypt, one is
giving moral support to the Christian community, and encouraging
the Egyptians in general."
Bishop Langrish said that he found the mood in Egypt mixed, with
Christians' unease about the perceived Islamist slant in the new
constitution matched by a greater sense of confidence than he had
noticed in the past. This, he believed, was because the experience
of taking to the streets in protests alongside Muslims had enabled
them to express their identity as both Egyptians and
In his view, the main concern of Egyptians stemmed from social
and economic problems rather than sectarian ones. "The Muslim
Brotherhood has come to power with a vision of a more Islamic
state," he said. While the Brotherhood had "deep roots in the
country, it has run nothing. Now it finds that running a complex
country is very challenging." President Mohammed Morsi's speeches
"sound more like sermons - they are strong on rhetoric, but weak on
policies. There is concern about the government's ability to
There was also a belief among Egyptians, Bishop Langrish said,
that, while the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists had prevailed
in elections this time, in the long run their success would wane.
"Egyptians are generous and moderate people," he continued. "Those
I spoke to said that it was not in their nature to be extremists.
Egypt is not Saudi Arabia and Iran."
During his stay in Cairo, Bishop Langrish met the newly elected
Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, and the Grand
Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ali Gomaa, to discuss the importance of
continuing dialogue between their faiths during the ongoing
protests in the country. With the former, he discussed the
religious response to the protests, which, he said, had been caused
by "a betrayal of the revolution, an unwanted Islamification, and
the failure to deal with economic and social need".
Dr Gomaa, described by Bishop Langrish as a representative of a
"classical and benevolent Islam", is shortly to retire. There had
been a widespread assumption in Egypt that he would be replaced by
a prominent Muslim Brotherhood cleric.
On Monday, senior clerics at al-Azhar University and Mosque, in
Cairo, the leading seat of scholarship in the Sunni Islamic world,
met to choose a replacement. After a secret ballot, the successful
candidate was named as Shawki Abdel Karim Allam, a professor of
jurisprudence at Tanta University, in northern Egypt, and a man
without political affiliations or a public profile.
The choice represents a significant blow to the Muslim
Brotherhood and the Salafists. Not only have they failed to see
their candidate become Mufti, but the vote shows that al-Azhar
clerics are determined to maintain their independence from