11 April 2017, The Tablet

Egypt: 'Religious establishment not serious at all' about changing anti-Christian sentiment learnt in mosques

Francis shows courage in continuing with his planned trip to 'come and strengthen the people'

In the wake of twin suicide bombings on Palm Sunday that left 49 dead, the latest in a series of attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt has said that the problem lies not with security but with an anti-Christian sentiment fostered in some Mosques, which he has doubts that the religious establishment is serious about changing.

“The top priority is education. It’s the mindset of people who hear these terrorists and fundamentalists, and they very much sympathise with them,” Father Rafic Greich, a Greek Melkite priest in Cairo and spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, told Crux news.

“This is the problem, and this is what has to change. The religious discourse given in the mosques has to change, because people need to be trained to be more open to their brothers,” he continued.

The religious establishment, he believes, “is not serious at all” about making this change.

Greich did say that the government was stepping up security, and that police were now positioned outside of churches.

Meanwhile Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, Upper Egypt, has called for increased security for Christians in the country, saying that until now “our sense of security was not very strong”, in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on 10 April.

Referring to the need for increased security for the 550 churches in Assiut, he said: “Thank God, nothing has happened here so far but we are too little prepared for such events.”

The bishop said Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt is “more important than ever” and that the Pontiff had already “shown the courage, precisely in such circumstances, to come and strengthen the people”. 

The Vatican confirmed yesterday that Francis is sticking with his plan to make the trip to Cairo on 28-29 April, where he will address a conference on peace at the famous Al-Azhar University. 

Yesterday (10 April), German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Muslims in Egypt to show solidarity with their Christian compatriots.

Speaking in Berlin, Merkel’s spokesperson said: “the Coptic minority doesn’t just need the protection of security forces, but also the solidarity and goodwill of the Muslim majority.”

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