EGYPTIANS have regained their freedom since the ousting of the
Muslim Brotherhood and victory of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,
the Presiding Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer
Anis, said last week.
Dr Anis is the Bishop in Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of
Africa. He was at Lambeth Palace on Friday to mark the 60th
anniversary of the Egypt Diocesan Association (EDA). Speaking on
Wednesday, he celebrated the growth of the Church, and defended
President al-Sisi's crackdown on those accused of terrorism.
"I think we are coming out of 16 years of a sort of oppression,"
he said. "There was hardship facing the Christians. The new
President has made it very clear that he wants to affirm the right
of citizenship. He is the first president to go into church during
mass. This never happened in history."
He cited, too, the President's response to the murder of 21
Coptic Christians in Libya this year, and his commitment to
rebuilding the churches destroyed in sectarian attacks in August
"Now we are starting to rebuild Eygpt, and it's very important
that the Church builds bridges," he said. He spoke of its
commitment to providing healthcare and education.
The latest report of the US Commission on International
Religious Freedom records a decrease in the number of "targeted,
sectarian attacks" in Egypt, compared with 2013. It, too, notes
that President al-Sisi has made "several important public
statements and gestures encouraging religious tolerance".
But it recommends that Egypt be designated a Country of
Particular Concern, and says that the government's efforts to
combat extremism and terrorism have had a "chilling impact on
On Tuesday, statements from the UN and US condemned the decision
by an Egyptian court to uphold the death sentence handed down to
the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi.
Dr Anis argued that each case brought to the courts since 2013
had been studied "very meticulously and thoroughly". He pointed out
that more than 1500 members of the police and army had been killed
in clashes with Islamists, and that the courts were simply applying
Egyptian law, which, as many US states do, permits the death
penalty. Many of those sentenced were outside the country, he
The violence had not only led to civilian deaths, he said, but
hurt the country through a loss in tourism and employment.
The Church had a special part to play, he said, in promoting
friendship and unity with other faith bodies, Dr Anis said. At the
meeting between Archbishop Welby and the Grand Imam of Al Alzhar
last week (News, 12
June), he affirmed the work of the university in confronting
The EDA was founded in 1955 as the Egypt and Sudan Churches
Association. In a press release issued by the organisation before
the celebration, its chairman, Canon Huw Thomas, said that the
diocese was "no longer so much the 'Church of England in Egypt' as
an indigenous Church", growing numerically and offering
hospitality, aid, and fellowship to thousands of Christians from
elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East.