Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1233, (12 - 18 February 2015)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1233, (12 - 18 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The Church’s role

Both Egypt’s Coptic Church and Al-Azhar have roles to play in the fight against terrorism, Father Boulos Halim, official spokesman of the Coptic Church, tells Michael Adel

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Al-Ahram Weekly

What do you think has happened to Egyptian society as a result of the two revolutions?

This is a question for sociologists to answer. But as an Egyptian citizen, I see a heightened level of political awareness among Egyptian people and I also notice their more active participation in national issues. Religious and media discourses have been leaving their mark on public opinion. Egyptian society is not going to give up the ground it gained in terms of freedom of opinion and expression during the two revolutions. I also sense a new determination among people to achieve stability and development.

 

Have the revolutions had negative effects?

The revolutions brought many positive things, but they also triggered strange attitudes that are quite alien to our society. We should try to eliminate these through education, through the restoration of patriotic sentiments, and through talking to young people and paying more attention to them.

 

What is the role of the Coptic Church in combatting terrorism or extremism?

When it comes to confronting terrorism and extremism, this is a task that requires concerted efforts by Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church and the media. Greater educational and cultural awareness is necessary to give rise to more enlightened public opinion. We need greater political resolve to confront such matters. Atheism, on the other hand, is not a threat. Here the role of the Church is to answer the questions that some people may have through social media and other more traditional means. We need to educate our children and to protect them from atheistic notions.

 

Does the Church oppose political upheavals in favour of stability?

The Church supports the national will and aims to do what is good for the nation. This has been evident in many situations, including in the 25 January and 30 June Revolutions. The Church supported the national will in the 1919 Revolution, towards the beginning of the last century, and it took a firm stand on former president Anwar Al-Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1977. What the nation wants is also what the Church wants.

 

Some people have accused the Church of becoming involved in politics. Should the Church have political opinions and pass them on to its followers?

The Church is not a participant in any political equation, only in the national equation. The Church has an educational and patriotic role, and when the nation calls upon it it steps in.

 

Would the Church intervene in appointments to key government positions?

The Church would never intervene in such appointments, and this is not what it wants to see. It wants all citizens to have equal rights and responsibilities. It is opposed to the marginalisation of or discrimination against any Egyptian on the grounds of creed, race or colour.

 

As official spokesman of the Church, how do you divide your time between your work as a priest and your job as spokesman?

Interaction with the congregation at my church, the Mar Girgis Church in Qolalli, is my primary responsibility. This is where I lead mass and care for the congregation. My role as an official spokesman of the Church comes second. But most of the skills I use in communicating with the media are ones I have learned from communicating with my congregation.

 

The Church now has an official Media Centre, but there are still obstacles facing journalists wishing to report on the life of the Church. How can these be removed?

The Church’s Media Centre was founded by Pope Tawadros II in November 2013, on the first anniversary of his coronation. On that occasion His Holiness issued a papal decree appointing an official spokesman for the Church. It is only to be expected that a media centre that has only been operating for one year should not have fully come up to speed. I believe that what has been achieved with God’s help thus far has been fairly satisfactory.

 

What does the Media Centre lack?

We hope to achieve the goals of the Church Media Centre over the coming years, in order to offer professional services of the highest quality. (see p. 20)

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