Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))

Ahram Weekly

A view from the Church

Father Boulos Koreit, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Al-Faggala in Cairo, explained the need for unity in the homeland and the Church to Michael Adel

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Al-Ahram Weekly

How do you see the current situation in Egypt?

Things are getting better. The country is recovering from the chronic illness that has afflicted it in recent years. The government, helped by intellectuals and well-meaning individuals, has been able to heal the illness. The roadmap has ended and we have a parliament in place. To all intents and purposes, the illness is over. But we are still in convalescence on the domestic, regional and international fronts.

 

What must we do during this convalescence?

Egypt is healthy now. But we need to put things in order. We need to restructure ties with Ethiopia, Turkey and Qatar. We also need to look at ties with the UK, which is offering support to the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

How long will the convalescence period last?

Two to four years.

 

Is Egypt threatened with collapse as a result of foreign schemes?

Any country in the world will be threatened when confronted with foreign schemes. But I am confident that Egypt has the expertise to survive any schemes against it. The biggest ordeal this county has had to face is the one we experienced after the 25 January Revolution.

 

Was the occupation of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood worse than any other the country had gone through?

Yes, because those who occupied Egypt in previous eras were after its resources, not its mind. When the mind succumbs to occupation, the country collapses. Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, was an Ottoman subject, but he made Egypt independent of Ottoman rule and loved it more than the Brotherhood ever did.

 

Are Christians in Egypt still suffering?

I cannot say that their recovery has been as complete as that of their country. Things had gone very wrong for them. But I would say that their minds are at peace now, despite the ordeals they experienced after the revolution. Egypt is a naturally cohesive country — a melting pot. And the Copts in Egypt are once again finding their bearings and shining through.

They have proved their love for Egypt in no uncertain terms. They took part in two revolutions. They made their presence felt during the presidential elections. They confronted sectarian sedition. They did well in the parliamentary elections, with more than 36 Copts now in parliament, an unprecedented number. So yes, things are better.

 

What is still missing for the Copts in Egypt?

There are of course some problems still facing the Copts, among them appointments to top government posts. The Copts are underrepresented in such posts. Abductions and difficulties in building churches are other problems, but I believe President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has a good grasp of these problems.

 

Did you watch the first session of the new parliament?

It was a very normal scene. Freedom, for those who are not used to it, takes a bit of practice. Many parliamentarians are still in Freedom Class 101. Freedom doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree. It’s all about dialogue. The MPs are currently learning how to shoulder their responsibilities and be accountable to their constituencies, and those who fail will not be in the next parliament. It is a learning curve.

 

But freedom may lead to disputes.

There is nothing wrong with differences in points of view. Over time we will learn how to draw the line between having disputes and having differences in points of view. In the past, our parliaments opted for unanimity over debate.

 

Is the Church allowed to engage in politics?

The Church is entitled to speak its mind and to discuss politics. But the clergy must not impose their views on their congregations or get entangled in political battles. As an institution, the Church is entitled to have political views and to engage in politics on occasion. But members of the clergy have no right to do so. There is a difference between the Church as an institution and the clergy who are individuals working for it.

 

How do you view the president’s visit to the Abbasiya Cathedral at Christmas?

It was a daring step taken in the right direction and one full of love and promise. There is no denying its daring qualities. The president is a man of courage.

 

Some say the president is seeking a powerbase among the Copts.

We can’t search people’s hearts. For all intents and purposes, this was a positive step and a sign of political and human astuteness. President Al-Sisi doesn’t need more popularity. He is in harmony with the Copts who see him as a leader who cares for all Egyptians. The visit was a natural action and one that is common all over the world. However, President Al-Sisi was the first Egyptian president to go to a Christmas mass.

 

How do you view the president’s call for a renewal of religious discourse in Egypt?

President Al-Sisi is the kind of man who blazes a trail, a trend setter. He is resourceful and open, and his call for the renewal and reinvigoration of religious discourse is important. He doesn’t just expect us to offer rhetoric, but to get on with the job and to engage in renewal and change.

 

Does the Church need to renew or change its discourse?

Not change, but rather renew, I should say. In matters of faith, the Church’s position is straightforward and unswerving.

 

Does the Church call for freedom?

Yes, for disciplined freedom and moral freedom. The Christian faith, I should add, is not confined to the concept of freedom.

 

Is today’s world lacking peace?

Of course it is. You may know that there are 66 places in the world today that are subject to war and famine, or bloodshed and fanaticism. All these things are signs of a lack of peace. The world needs peace and humanitarianism.

 

Why is peace so lacking?

There is an element of intention, no doubt. One reason is the clout of the weapons industry, which has leverage over top government officials, including presidents, in major countries. There is also a lack of lines of defence and of capable international institutions.

 

Is the world lacking in terms of interfaith dialogue?

We are also lacking in terms of interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue is a new phrase, coined some 30 years or so ago after the proliferation of modern means of communication. Some people think they can live alone. But the world needs dialogue among peoples, regardless of their creeds, and it needs acceptance of the other.

 

What do you think of the idea of unifying the Christian holidays?

The ball is now in Pope Tawadros’s court. Pope Francis of the Vatican proposed the idea to the Orthodox Church. Unifying the feasts is a lovely goal, and it can be done. I am optimistic about it. But it will take time and effort, and it will require theological and scientific studies and debate. But, at the end of the day, it is a worthy cause.

 

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