A PACT to counter extremism and terrorism was signed this week
by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar
University, Professor Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, considered the
highest authority in Sunni Islam.
Archbishop Welby and Professor el-Tayeb sought to make the case
for religion as an agent of peace rather than conflict, at a press
conference on Wednesday.
Asked about attacks on Christians in Egypt, Professor el-Tayeb
suggested that the view held by the West might not be "compatible
with the reality in Egypt", and said that conflicts over land, or
interfaith relationships, were inaccurately portrayed in the media
as religious conflicts.
There had never been a war between Muslims and Christians in the
country, although tensions had existed. Muslims who attacked
Christians "do not represent Egyptian Muslims: these people are
The President-Bishop in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle
East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, agreed that "many incidents are
social", and that others were due to "fanaticism".
Archbishop Welby praised Professor el-Tayeb for demonstrating
"great personal courage in the way that he has challenged
After the murder of 21 Copts in Libya in February, a statement
from Al-Azhar University said that "such barbaric action has
nothing to do with any religion or human values".
Since 2011, it is estimated that 200,000 Christians have left
Egypt. This year's report from the US Commission on International
Religious Freedom recommends that Egypt be designated a Country of
Asked about the rise of IS, Professor el-Tayeb said: "I do not
know who is behind Da'esh [IS], and have
no idea where they get their support from, but I would like to say
there is a major terrorist organisation that all the Arab world is
paying the price for." The world must unite to defeat it, he
In addition to "a mutual endeavour to counter the narrative of
extremism and terrorism", the statement commits the leaders to
"work towards promoting mutual values to address the challenges of
Professor el-Tayeb said: "We are suffering because we have
forgotten about God. . . We have to listen to the voice of the
heavens. We have tried science, philosophy, social doctrines, and
each step of the way man has been losing a great deal of their own
humanity and their own values."