THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Christians and Muslims to work together in the cause of peace, acknowledging that, at times in the past, Christians had failed to live up to the ideals of their faith in encounters with Islam.
Archbishop Welby’s call came in a sermon at All Saints’ Cathedral, Cairo, during a service of thanksgiving for the new Anglican/Episcopal Province of Alexandria.
“Christians are to be part of a Church that is told to conquer with love and peace,” he said. “Never, never with a sword, a bomb, or a plot. Either Christians demonstrate the truth of God or they demonstrate nothing by the quality of their lives.
“And I say to our dear friends from the Islamic community: how often have Christians got this wrong. Our history is one of the tragic sin of force. Let us be people of peace together.”
The new Province of Alexandria, Archbishop Welby said, “covers a huge area, from the waves of the Atlantic to the beaches of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It has a history of learning, looks south into Africa and east to the Holy Lands, north to Europe. A thousand years ago, this area preserved medicine and learning. Today, Egypt has again found its historic place as a place of meeting, of refuge.”
The Archbishop of Alexandria, Dr Samy Fawzy, was installed earlier this year; the service for the launch of the Province was postponed because of the pandemic. The Province of Alexandria, headed by Egypt, incorporates nine other countries: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia.
Archbishop Welby said that the diversity in the new Province reflected that of the Anglican Church as a whole, and went on: “We are to be a Church that is full of difference. In this Province, you are to be united from the villages of Gambella to the apartments and towns of Cairo and Egypt, to the luxurious hotels on the Mediterranean coast. We are to be one, with our differences.”
On his arrival in Egypt, Archbishop Welby visited the ancient monastery of St Macarius, in Wadi Natrun, 60 miles north-west of Cairo. He wrote on Twitter that it was inspiring to begin his visit at a monastery “founded in 360 AD. Very moving to pray in this ancient place. . . Excellent spiritual conversation with the monks here.”
The Archbishop then visited the Harpur Memorial Hospital, in Menouf, which was founded in 1910 by an Irish missionary, Dr Frank Harpur. The Archbishop opened a new wing for the pre-term-infants nursery. In a speech, he referred to the fact that, before the founding of the hospital, Dr Harpur had treated poor Egyptians from a boat on the Nile — “a beautiful symbol that reminds us of stories from the Bible such as Noah’s Ark and the story of Moses.”
“The diocese of Egypt runs this excellent hospital,” he wrote on Twitter, “and it’s an example of the role that Anglicans play in healthcare in many countries. Christ’s love in action.”
During his four-day visit to Egypt, Archbishop Welby had meetings with a range of religious leaders, including the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria. He wrote on Twitter that he was “very glad to have this time of conversation and prayer with him today. We give thanks for our beloved brothers and sisters in the Coptic Church and their faithful witness to Jesus Christ.”
Accompanied by Dr Fawzy, Archbishop Welby had talks with the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawky Allam, and Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, the main seat of Sunni Islamic scholarship. “At this time of great crises in our world,” the Archbishop wrote after the meeting, “it’s especially important that we keep building bridges of friendship across different faiths. Grateful for the Grand Imam of al-Azhar’s deep commitment to this vision.”
During a press conference at All Saints’ Cathedral, Archbishop Welby was asked about a developing crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile (News, 6 August). Egyptians fear that the dam could threaten the flow of Nile water into Egypt on which the country is overwhelmingly reliant. Talks involving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have failed to resolve differences on this issue.
Archbishop Welby said that water resources were not the sole property of individual countries, and he appealed “to the Ethiopian government to show that they will use the dam responsibly, caring for their neighbours downstream. Please show that this dam is not a reason to worry.”