Welby and Grand Imam sign anti-terrorism pact

12 June 2015

LAMBETH PALACE

Joint signatories: the Archbishop of Canterbury and Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Professor Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, on Wednesday

Joint signatories: the Archbishop of Canterbury and Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Professor Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, on Wednesday

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 terrorists".

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 extremism".

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 Particular Concern.

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 said.

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 materialism".

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."

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