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Coptic leader urges partnership with Muslims

by
31 May 2013

by John Martin

AP

Sign: Egyptian Muslim women hold a cross in support of Christians, during a memorial march for Christians who were killed during deadly clashes with Muslims in April, in Cairo, last Friday

Sign: Egyptian Muslim women hold a cross in support of Christians, during a memorial march for Christians who were killed during deadly clashe...

A COPTIC bishop from Egypt has called for a closer partnership between Christians and "liberal secular" Muslims, to bring about a transformation in his country.

Delivering the Embrace the Middle East (formerly BibleLands) Annual Lecture on Tuesday of last week, jointly sponsored by St James's, Piccadilly, Bishop Thomas of El-Qussia and Mair, an economically deprived area in Upper Egypt, said that revolution had unleashed two opposing forces: strict religious conservatives, and those who wanted a liberal-secular civil society.

"The two groups use the same words: freedom, justice, democracy, equality. But they want different things."

Christians had responded in three different ways, he said. Some of the wealthiest had emigrated; others had turned in on themselves, and had "emigrated within"; and the third group wanted to stay to be agents for change in their community. To achieve this, he said, Christians needed to make connections with "liberal-secular" Muslims.

Egypt needed to change, he said, from being a hierarchical society to democratic; from a male-dominated society to a gender-equal one; and from a conservative religious society to an open one.

"Democracy is not the dictatorship of the majority. It is the majority allowing every section space to express themselves. We need to teach people to live out the philosophy of democracy in their families, schools, and communities."

Bishop Thomas, who founded the Anaphora Christian retreat centre, near Cairo, said that the tradition of co-existence in Egypt had been weakened by the revolution of 2011, but that Christians had a vital part to play in rebuilding.

During the revolution, something important had happened, he said. "For the first time, Egyptian people have been able to talk freely. . . This is why I remain hopeful. If ever Egyptian people are denied the right to talk in freedom, I will lose hope. But I hope and pray that that day will not come."

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