A statement does not bring back to life those Coptic Christians who died in Egypt last Sunday (9 October 2011), nor does it make a wrong any more right.
However, it does underline the elements of solidarity and concern shared by peoples of faith and goodwill worldwide towards the political developments and conflicts in Egypt, which are increasingly acquiring confessional and even sectarian proportions.
In this spirit, I am pleased to commend the news statement by the Rt Revd Declan Lang, Catholic Bishop of Clifton, which comes at a time when many religious leaders worldwide have underlined the gravity of the situation in Egypt on the threshold of different elections:
It is with great sadness that I learnt of the tragedy that took place in Cairo on Sunday evening, involving the Egyptian Coptic Christian communities and the security forces. Those clashes resulted in dozens of deaths and many more injuries.
This latest episode of targeted violence, as well as the long-standing issues between the Egyptian authorities and peoples and the Coptic Church in Egypt, follows the torching last month of the Mar Girgis church in Edfu, a city in Aswan governorate in southern Egypt.
My prayers today go with HH Pope Shenouda III and the Holy Synod, as well as with HE Cardinal Antonius Naguib and all Coptic communities in Egypt, as they strive to heal the wounds dividing the peoples of this great nation and as they labour for peace and justice in Egypt. We in this country stand in solidarity with the three-day prayer and fasting period undertaken by the Copts of Egypt.
It is to be hoped that the Egyptian political authorities will spare no effort in addressing at long last the festering problems that have affected the Coptic faithful in Egypt so that they can become equal citizens alongside their fellow Muslims.
In this respect, I want to acknowledge the efforts of the Coptic Church leaders, as well as of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, HE Sheikh Ahmad El-Tayeb, in ensuring that all measures are taken to address the need for common citizenship, freedom of worship and human rights for Egyptian Muslims and Christians alike.
Bishop Declan Lang
Chair, International Affairs
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales
© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian ). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net