Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement – copied below – on the recent disturbances in Cairo. The statement draws attention to Egypt’s long history of peaceful interfaith relations and the urgency of ensuring the rights of all citizens are assured.
In a subsequent intervention in the House of Lords yesterday the Archbishop went on to press the case for the Egyptian government’s inquiry into the recent disturbances to be independent, transparent and comprehensive and free from military interference.
Taken together the Archbishop’s comments encourage us to escape the sectarian discourse – favoured by certain parts of our media – by placing the disturbances in a wider historical and religious context while at the same time stressing the need for the Egyptian government to provide for the welfare and security of all its citizens, even dissenting minorities.
The best way of doing this is by accelerating Egypt’s transition to democracy and by returning the military to barracks as soon as possible.
Along with countless Christians and Muslims alike throughout the world, I want to express my deep concern about the current situation in Egypt as it affects all our Christian brothers and sisters and to promise our continuing prayers and support especially for His Holiness Pope Shenuda and the community he serves. In modern times the significant Coptic Christian population in Egypt has been free from repression; Muslims and Christians have happily shared a loyalty to the one Egyptian state. In the upheavals of the last nine months, again and again Muslims have stood alongside Christians to defend them and to witness together to a hope for justice and stability for all Egypt’s citizens. We are moved by the readiness of so many, including the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, to condemn hatred and violence directed against the Church.
This legacy is too precious to lose or endanger. As we assure our fellow-Christians in Egypt of our prayer and solidarity, we join with all those, both Muslims and Christians, in Egypt who are urging the government to secure the rights and freedoms of all communities in this time of rapid change, and not to put at risk the historic commitments of modern Egypt to co-existence and mutual support.