Tuesday,19 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1425, (10 - 16 January 2019)
Tuesday,19 February, 2019
Issue 1425, (10 - 16 January 2019)

Ahram Weekly

A message of peace and tolerance

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated one of the Middle East’s largest mosques and the biggest cathedral in the region in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital this week, reports Reem Leila

 

Pope Tawadros II and Al-Sisi during Coptic Christmas ceremony at the new Coptic Cathedral in the NAC
Pope Tawadros II and Al-Sisi during Coptic Christmas ceremony at the new Coptic Cathedral in the NAC

In a message of peace and tolerance, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated one of the Middle East’s largest Mosque, named Al-Fattah Al-Alim, and the new Coptic Cathedral of the Nativity, the largest in the Middle East, in the New Administrative Capital (NAC) in ceremonies held this week.

“This is a historic moment. It is a message to the world about the cohesion of our society. We are one, and we will remain one,” the president said on the eve of Coptic Christmas earlier this week in a reference to Egypt’s Muslims and Christians.

Both the mosque and the cathedral were built over the past 18 months, each on approximately 60,000 feddans of land and accommodating thousands of worshippers.

During the ceremonies, the president also saluted members of the police and army who had given their lives for their country. Together with other attendees, he observed a minute of silence in memory of the policeman killed last Saturday while deactivating a bomb placed near a church in Nasr City.

“These two places of worship stand as a symbol in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability and spread sectarianism,” Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb said, echoing the words of President Al-Sisi. 

Al-Azhar is the Sunni Muslim world’s oldest institution of religious learning, and Al-Tayeb said that Islam obliges Muslims to protect and defend houses of worship, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish.

In a video message of support played during the ceremony to inaugurate the new cathedral, Roman Catholic Pope Francis said that “with joy I greet all of you on the joyful occasion of the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Nativity, built in the New Administrative Capital. I pray the prince of peace will give Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world the gift of peace and prosperity.”

There were also messages of support from Ethiopian Christian clerics. The Ethiopian Church follows the doctrine and rituals of the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II addressed the president at the ceremony by saying that “on this day we see you have fulfilled this promise, and here we are witnessing a great opening on this grand occasion.” Al-Sisi had promised to build the new Cathedral in January 2017.

According to Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi, Sunday’s opening ceremony was a highly symbolic gesture at a time when Islamist militants have been targeting the country’s Christians.

“The president has made of sectarian harmony a foundation of the regime. Al-Sisi is fighting the militias while encouraging equality between Muslims and Christians,” Radi said.

Egypt has long been fighting extremists, but it intensified its attacks on militants early last year when President Al-Sisi called for the beginning of the Sinai Comprehensive Operation as part of a campaign to eradicate terrorism.

Al-Fattah Al-Alim Mosque consists of two floors. The edifice can hold more than 12,000 worshippers.

The mosque includes a museum for the three divine religions. There is also a place for Quran memorisation as well as a charity hospital with 300 beds. 

The mosque has an outdoor courtyard with an area of 3,400 square metres.

Whereas the Cathedral of Nativity has a prayer centre with a capacity of 10,000 worshippers, its overall area is ​​four folds the Cathedral of St Mark in Abbasiya. The cathedral’s height is 25 metres whereas the highest point of the cathedral is 35 metres.

The cathedral is designed in the form of a cross, an architectural style that preserves the Coptic identity and the Christian heritage.

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