Reinhard Backes, ACN International
Montreal, September 18th, 2013. It is with a sense of relief that the Coptic-Catholic bishops of Assiut and Minya, Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna, have reacted to the latest political development in Egypt. “Under the Muslim Brotherhood an unprecedented polarisation developed. The Christians were accused of being against Islam. Churches were attacked, police stations burnt down. Moderate Muslims stood up to protect us,” Bishop Kyrillos William stressed in a meeting with the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. “Now Egyptians are standing together. They are turning against extremism and terrorism,” Bishop Kyrillos William continued.
Bishop Botros Hanna of Minya also expressed his relief when talking to staff at “Aid to the Church in Need”: “We have the same problems and hopes as our Muslim neighbours. Together we can find solutions. It is absolutely essential that we respect one another and keep talking.” Bishop Hanna went on to explain: “There is no war between the religions in my country, but there is a conflict between extremists and the Egyptian people.”
Bishop Hanna expressed his great concern at the enormous social differences in Egypt and the large number of people who were illiterate; both factors played into the hands of the extremists. Bishop Hanna said: “Egypt needs education, schools, respect for human rights and the rights of minorities.”
Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna declared their optimism that a new constitution would take account of the interest of all Egyptians. According to the Bishops, representatives of the respected Islamic al-Azhar University in Cairo and the Christian Churches were involved in its formulation. The aim was a separation of religion and state. Around 85 per cent of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims and 10 to 15 per cent Christians. The number of Catholics is approximately 200,000.