21 June 2011

Egypt: Bishop of Egypt Calls On Christians to Lobby for 'Spiritual Democracy' in the Middle East

Christians - and Anglicans in particular - have a special role to play in helping to establish peace in Egypt and through the Middle East.

These were the words of the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt and President Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, who was speaking at the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG yesterday (Monday).

Bishop Mouneer said: 'Since 1 January this year, under the shadow of a great revolution, the number of sectarian clashes has increased dramatically, especially with the rise of some aggressive Islamic groups. Of course, not all Muslims think like this - the majority are peace-loving.

'The need for enhancing national unity has become a top priority and was behind the establishment of Beth el Aila [The Family House], an initiative of the Grand Imam of Egypt to bring Christian and Muslim leaders together to promote religious harmony. I am the representative for the Anglican Church on this group.'

Bishop Mouneer outlined his concerns for the church in a region that has seen popular uprisings against repressive governments.

The bishop said: 'If the Middle East is heading towards Islamic-based states with the application of the Sharia Law, the challenges facing Christians will include more restrictions on freedom. If the Middle East is heading towards real democracy based on the rights of citizenship, then Christians will have more options to be involved in building the future of the countries.'

In response to a question regarding what the international community could do, Bishop Mouneer said: 'The international community needs to ensure that citizens everywhere enjoy their full human rights. Governments that fail to provide these rights need to be challenged by the UN.

'Western countries should be careful about imposing a kind of democracy that's empty of spiritual values. Democracy should be relevant to the context and culture of the Middle East, which is very religious.'

When asked about the Palestine-Israel conflict, the bishop said: 'The US is the only country that can push through a solution in the Middle East. But, unfortunately, after the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, trust dropped in US politics, policy and administration and hatred increased. I just wish the USA would play its role through the UN. And I hope that the USA will strengthen the UN not weaken it.'

Bishop Mouneer also highlighted the special role that Anglicans had to play. He said: 'The Anglican Church can play a bridging role between churches, and this is very much what we are doing. The Anglican Church can also play a bridging role with the other faiths. It seems that, though we are tiny, we are the most active in inter faith in this region.'

USPG CONFERENCE EXTRA: Read Archbishop Tutu's special message to USPG annual conference delegates:

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