The Visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Egypt

After the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya, Archbishop Justin Welby contacted me and expressed his desire to come and give condolences to Pope Tawadros II and the Christian community in Egypt. This incident shook the conscience of the whole world, awakening the church worldwide to the fact that Coptic Christians are ready to die for the sake of their faith in Christ.

Archbishop Welby arrived in the early hours of April 19 and left at the early hours of the next day. In addition to the condolence visit to the Pope, meetings were organized between the Archbishop and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyib.

At the meeting with the President, Archbishop Welby offered his condolences for the victims of terrorist attacks in Egypt, especially those by ISIS in Libya against Coptic Christians. He thanked the President for his care and support for the Christian minority. At this point, the President emphasized that Egyptian Christians are not a minority but members of one Egyptian family. “They have full rights as Egyptian citizens,” the President said.

The Archbishop also commended the President for his speech at the beginning of the year in which he challenged religious leaders to re-new the religious rhetoric.

President Sisi replied saying that terrorism and extremism are the products of ignorance, poverty, and isolation from the modern world, in addition to a poor religious rhetoric. He shared his hopes that Western universities would offer scholarships to Egyptian students, which would not only advance their technical skills and knowledge, but also expose these students to different cultures, opening new generations to the diversity of the world.

During this meeting, I was able to share with President Sisi our efforts to build bridges between different faith communities. One of such projects was “Planting a Tree of Hope,” which helped school-age children from different religious backgrounds to learn to accept differences. Another is the ongoing “Imam-Priest Exchange,” a project that builds relationships between religious leaders. The President expressed his appreciation, and was also thankful to receive a copy of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue and other books published by the Anglican Church in Egypt. The President also agreed to allow us to use a quote from his Christmas visit to the Coptic Cathedral: “the solution to our problems is to seriously love one another.” The meeting lasted for 70 minutes and was very warm and encouraging.

At the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Archbishop Welby handed Pope Tawadros II twenty-one letters of condolence written by members of the Church of England. The Pope shared about the strong faith exhibited by parents of the martyrs in Libya, who are proud of their sons for not denying Christ, welcoming instead their death for his sake. I also shared with the Pope the song, “Oh Lord Jesus (Ya RabYessua), written by a Scottish pastor inspired by these events. The Pope was greatly encouraged and appreciated the visit.

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The meeting with the Grand Imam was also very successful. Archbishop Welby assured the Grand Imam of his prayers for his efforts to renew religious rhetoric . The Grand Imam said that Christianity is a religion of love and Islam is a religion of mercy, and that in these crucial times we need the teaching of both. He also praised the warm relationship and fruitful cooperation between the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt and Al Azhar Al-Sharif.

Hope and anticipation were clear in each of these visits. We were particularly impressed by the President, who has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve for Egypt.

The visit concluded with a packed service at All Saints’ Cathedral, attended by members of Cairo’s Sudanese, Egyptian, and expatriate Anglican congregations. In his sermon, Archbishop Welby expressed his gratitude for the faithful witness of Middle Eastern Christians, even in the face of great adversity, encouraging listeners to continue to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world.

After the service a reception dinner was organized with former Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa and representatives of the Coptic Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, and other Middle Eastern churches, the Archbishop returned to the airport. On the way back from dinner the Archbishop said “I am amazed by the ability of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt to bring many people from different backgrounds together.”

Archbishop Justin Welby’s visit was a great encouragement and demonstration of the unity of the global church in the face of adversity. For its success we give thanks to God.

+Mouneer

 

January & February Diocese Newsletter

They can break my body
They can break my pride
They can cut my head off
And post it up online
But when the morning breaks
It’s Jesus I will see
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
Dear Friends,

I was moved by the words above, written by Rev. John Young, a Scottish pastor. He wrote them in a song inspired by the last words of one of the Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya last month. Before one of the young men was killed, he said, ya Rabbi Yesua, “oh, my Lord Jesus.”

It is difficult to imagine such brutal persecution facing Christians in the twenty-first century. However, it is not surprising. Before going to the cross, Christ warned his disciples in John 16: “they will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” This is exactly what happened in Libya.

It is both moving and encouraging to us, Egyptians and Christians, to know that these young men were ready to give their lives rather than denounce their saviour, Jesus Christ. These men, and those who have been killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, have demonstrated great faith. Their testimony and the testimonies of their families have been powerful. The families of the Coptic Christians killed in Libya have consistently spoken about love and forgiveness for those who killed their sons.

In response to the events in Libya, the Egyptian government has decided to build a new church in Minya, the hometown of the martyrs killed in Libya, and dedicate it to their memory.

We lift up their families and communities and the whole of the church in the Middle East in prayer, and remember their model of faithfulness to Christ, captured in the words of Rev. Young. I would like to close with the final verse of “Ya Rabbi Yesua:”

They’re asking me to say
My faith is just a lie
They tell me ‘turn away
And I won’t have to die’
But how can I abandon
The one who wouldn’t abandon me
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
May the Lord bless you.
+Mouneer
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Statement on the Murder of 21 Egyptian Christians

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness I write you today about the heinous murder of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hand of the so-called Islamic State branch in Libya. These men from the Upper Egyptian city of Samalout are no different from thousands of other Muslim and Christian Egyptians in Libya, seeking employment to support their families back home.

Except that these 21 were specifically chosen for their Christian faith. The video of their beheading expressed the Islamic State’s intention to increasingly target the Copts of Egypt.

This morning the Egyptian government launched airstrikes on Islamic State positions. It has declared a week of mourning, banned further travel to Libya, and will work to facilitate the return of all Egyptian citizens. The foreign minister has been dispatched to the United Nations to discuss the necessary international response.

The Anglican Church in Egypt and the world expresses its deep condolences to the families of these men, and also to his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Please join me in praying for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Such cheer may seem impossible, but it is God’s promise. Please pray for us, that we may live lives worthy of his name, and hold to the testimony exhibited by the brave Egyptians in Libya.

 

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Archbishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Primate of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

A Christmas Eve Surprise

On January 6, as Egypt’s Coptic Christian community celebrated Christmas Eve at St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, and while the Pope and other clergy were chanting the liturgy, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived to congratulate the community. This was a very joyful surprise to me and the thousands of Christians who had gathered in the cathedral. The crowds responded to the surprise visit with joyful cheers. They had never expected the president to attend the Christmas celebration. In fact, this was the first visit in history of an Egyptian president to the cathedral during a service.

President Sisi, who had returned from Kuwait just two hours earlier, had decided to greet Christians as they were celebrating Christmas Eve. By this surprise visit, he also sent a message to all Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, that he is determined to achieve equality between all religious communities in Egypt. The gesture demonstrated brilliantly that President Sisi acts on his word without hesitation or fear of criticism from extremists, and set a new precedent for Muslim leaders in the Middle East of respect and care for all religious communities. The visit brought new hope and encouragement to Christians after decades of marginalization.

During the visit, President Sisi gave Christmas wishes to the Pope and the crowds. He also said that Egyptians must love one another with sincere hearts. “In the past,” he added, “we made a great civilization, and together we are capable of resuming that role. We can teach the world about the spirit of love and tolerance.” The crowds responded with loud shouts: “we are one hand. We love you, Sisi.”

The visit lasted for a few minutes; however, I think it will have a much longer and greater impact on the national unity of the people of Egypt. A week before this visit, the President gave a strong speech at the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, urging Muslim leaders to start a revolution against extremist Islamic thinking that has damaged the reputation of Islam and led to sectarian violence in Egypt and many parts of the world. I see the surprise visit to the cathedral as a practical action coming from the President’s conviction that followers of different religions should live together in peace.

May the Lord bless you!

+Mouneer

The Egyptian Family House: Muslims and Christians, Holding Hands

Of all the slogans of the Egyptian revolution, ‘One Hand’ was among the most popular. At various times it was shouted by the thousands to indicate the unity of Muslims and Christians, or the unity of the people and the army, or more recently in the fight against terrorism.

But along this progression the utopian unity of Tahrir Square has faded. It has been challenged by political struggles and sectarian rhetoric, which have at times intermixed.

Perhaps, then, in recognition of the dual truths of religious unity and diversity, Bishop Mouneer Hanna of the Anglican diocese of Egypt opened the final session of the 2014 Imam-Priest Exchange with a different hand analogy.

‘Let us hold hands together,’ he said, ‘for the sake of Egypt.’

priest-imam 2

The Imam-Priest Exchange is one of the most dynamic projects of the Egyptian Family House, an entity created in 2011 by the Azhar and Coptic Orthodox Church. The Protestant and Catholic denominations are also vital participants, and the Anglican Church has taken the lead in training religious leaders in dialogue and practical partnership.

The Family House has a mandate to interact with government ministers through its committee work in education, media, youth, and religious discourse. But it is this latter committee which is actively preparing its second mandate: Taking the message of national unity to the grassroots.

For it is here that the real challenge of terrorism and sectarianism must be fought. No matter the international scope of these issues gripping the region, too many Egyptians are drafted into extremism.

‘This session coincides with a bloody period that Egypt is going through, killing Muslims and Christians together,’ said Sheikh Muhi al-Din Afifi, head of the Azhar’s Islamic Research Center. ‘We must spread a culture of citizenship, love, peace, and coexistence.’

The military aspect of this challenge is important, Bishop Mouneer emphasized. ‘But ideology is more important and this is why we are here today,’ he said.

‘I hope and trust this will not be our last meeting, but the beginning of our mutual work.’

November 3-5 witnessed the final of four sessions during which 35 imams and 35 priests from throughout the country lived together, attended training seminars, and visited local historical and religious sites. Their dialogue, so to speak, was not the formal discussion of religious doctrines, but rather the exchange of life, rubbing shoulders over meals and jokes.

priest-imam

They repeated the program experienced a year earlier by seventy others, to be repeated again in 2015 with seventy more.

The first session concerned how to get to know each other, followed in the second by how to live together. But as participants grew more comfortable the purposes grew more demanding. Session three was on how to cooperate, and session four on how to work together.

‘I beseech you to have joint work together throughout Egypt,’ said Afifi, ‘not just religious but also medical and developmental.’

It was not easy in the beginning. During the first session the 2013 graduates were brought back to testify of their experiences. Imams and priests demonstrated their newfound friendships, as just a year previously they had not known each other.

However, there remains challenges in these relationships. Some spoke that a priest would never be welcome in a mosque, nor an imam in a church. Some emphasized the glories of their own religion, and some described others as not really wanting to be there in the first place.

‘It is very hard work,’ said Saleem Wassef, the project director and a lay minister in the Anglican Church. ‘But I stress to them we are here to emphasize a culture of “me and you together,” rather than simply “me or you.”’

These grumblings, however, were outnumbered by testimonies of interaction. Fr. Mityas of Fayoum visited Sheikh Ali when his wife fell ill. Fr. Suriyal of Ismailia visited schools and hospitals with Sheikh Abdel Rahman. Fr. Kyrillos of Port Said solved sectarian problems with Sheikh Hassan. And Sheikh Hisham of Mallawi visits coffee shops with various priests of his city, asking people their impressions about men of religion.

These social appearances are to Bishop Mouneer one of the most important outcomes of the meetings.

‘We are not here to listen to lectures and visit locations,’ he told participants, ‘but each one after leaving here must look for the closest imam or priest near to him and make relationships, hold seminars, and walk in the street together.’

priest-imam 3

Indeed, as imams and priests left their hotel in Dokki they needed to go about four blocks to a main road where the bus could take them to their next location. Onlookers stopped conversations and turned to watch the unusual spectacle.

Some priests confessed they had all but stopped walking alone in the streets of their cities, being subject to insults and even spitting. But walking together makes a great difference.

‘Egyptians love men of religion,’ said Fr. Arsanious of BeniSuef, ‘and if they see a priest and an imam together it influences them to work together and overcome fanaticism.

‘These displays of love are like the leaven that spreads through the whole community.’

Fr. Arsanious wants to help open a regional branch of the Family House in his area. Fr. Mikhail and Sheikh Emad hope to begin work in the Cairo slum of Kilo Arbawa Nus.

If successful, they will follow in the footsteps of the previous class which opened branches in Alexandria, Luxor, Port Said, Ismailia, and Giza. This is where the real work takes place, outside the conferences, which will prove their lasting value. Will the friendships forged between imams and priests over the course of a year carry over into continued cooperation?

Fr. Mikhael and Sheikh Imad at most recent Imam-Priest Exchange event.

In expectant hope, Wassef trained them how to measure the fruit of their friendship. Are they working together as a team? Have they touched all classes of their local area? Have they incorporated others already at work in civil society? And have they written out a plan to accomplish the above, with deadlines?

‘We are working hard to exchange a culture of hatred with a culture of love,’ said Wassef. ‘This is for the welfare of our country, to change the minds of Muslims and Christians toward one another.

‘The project helps reach unreached places.’

 

Thanks to journalist Jayson Casper for this article on the Imam-Priest Exchange. He writes for Arab West Report, Christianity Today, Lapido Media, and other publications, and blogs at asenseofbelonging.org.

Egypt Fights Terrorism

My dear friends,
On 24 October 2014, all of us here in Egypt were shocked to hear the news of another terrorist attack in the North of Sinai. The terrorists fired on a military border check point, killing 26 military officers and soldiers and injuring a further 25. This was a very serious incident and an attack on the forces of law and order, yet it was largely ignored by the international media
Egyptians were angered and saddened by the attack and the government responded by tightening security measures, especially at the border with Gaza from where the terrorists possibly had crossed into Sinai, or from where they had received support. The government also declared a State of Emergency in the region.
These terrorist attacks have become more frequent since the removal from power of President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters are generally believed to be behind the terror campaign. Indeed, a Muslim Brotherhood leader (El Beltagi) tellingly claimed “All explosions in Sinai will stop the minute Morsi is allowed to return to the Presidential Palace.” Hamas in Gaza was originally set up as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the two remain closely linked.
Many people in Egypt now believe that this country was saved from a fate similar to that of Syria when the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power. This explains why morale remains high here, despite the terrorist attacks we have suffered since July 2013.Fighting terrorism is not an easy war, because the enemies are always hidden and they attack from within most of the time.Egypt now needs the support of its friends. This support involves understanding of the real situation and cooperation to combat terrorism.
Please pray for Egypt as we strive to rebuild the country and its economy.

 

 

+ Mouneer Egypt
The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

“Being Good Neighbors”: Provincial Clergy & Spouses Conference

The clergy and spouses of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East met in Luxor, Egypt from 29 September to 2 October 2014. The theme of the conference was being good neighbors in the current Middle Eastern context.

We received greetings from The Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote: “you are living in the first part of the parable of the good Samaritan.  The wounded and the terrorized are before you, much of the world and even the church goes by; everyone has an analysis, but few of them start with the presence of Jesus, reaching out both to victim and perpetrator…. You are the Samaritans, hard pressed, threatened, but faithful.  We pray for you constantly and learn from you regularly.”  We also received greetings from Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyib, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the hub for Sunni Muslims in the world.

The keynote speaker was Professor David Ford, the Founding Director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme and Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. Professor Ford challenged us to be neighbors as Jesus was the neighbor of us all. He also helped us to better understand the Gospel of St. John in which “love as I have loved you” is at the heart of the Gospel. Old Testament studies were given by The Venerable John Holdsworth of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, and New Testament studies were given by The Rt. Rev. Dr. Grant LeMarquand of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. We also received teaching from Bishops Michael Lewis, Suheil Dawani, Azad Marshall, and Bill Musk.

We all came from many different Middle Eastern countries and traditions, however, we were united in prayer, receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, and studying the Word of God. We became aware of the overall context within the Middle East: 1) the growing number of refugees from South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq; 2) the increase in violence and terrorism; 3) the persecution of Christians and other minorities, especially in Iraq; and 4) the challenges facing the Church throughout the Middle East, especially in Iran. We also reflected on how we can be a good neighbor, as Jesus was, in relation to all these challenges.

Being in Luxor (Thebes) the ancient capital of Egypt, we had the opportunity to see the ancient Egyptian temples that go back 5,000 years. We were impressed by the ancient Egyptians search for God and the hope of life after death. This brought to mind the prayer of St. Augustine of Hippo (Anaba, Algeria): “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.

We are grateful to the Egyptian Security who guarded us as we traveled. It was clear that Egypt was taking the security of visitors very seriously in order to promote tourism.

Finally, and most importantly, we thank God for this wonderful for this wonderful conference and the unity we experienced in this time.

Global South statement regarding The Diocese of South Carolina

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation.”

The decision of the Diocese of South Carolina was made in response to the meeting of the Global South Primates Steering Committee in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014.[1] A recommendation from that meeting stated that, “we decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.”

Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer
The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee

+Ian
The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean
Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee

 

[1] The full statement of the Global South Primates Steering Committee held in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014 may be found on the Global South Anglican website.

Download Full Statement

 

 

Statement from Bishop Mouneer about Iraqi Christians

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa and the President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, stated that the suffering, persecution and displacement of Iraqi Christians, especially in the Mosul area, is a disgrace to the international community which is not doing enough to rescue the people of Iraq from the terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS.

Bishop Mouneer also expressed his deep sadness for burning and looting of churches in Iraq, noting that the Chaldean Church in Iraq goes back to the first century. He added that emptying Iraq of Christians is a great loss to the people of Iraq. Bishop Mouneer also called upon the Iraqi government and the international community to make every effort to stop these terrorist crimes against Christians and called upon on Al Azhar Al Sherif and Muslim scholars in the Middle East to stand against the terrorist ideologies of these terrorists who have also killed innocent Muslims.

St Frumentius’ College to open in January 2015

The Anglican Church in Ethiopia is growing. It is a great example of what God is doing throughout Africa. In 2000, we had 8 churches, now we have over 80. This growth is great news! However, much of this growth is numerical with little depth in the knowledge of the Word of God, and with few trained clergy.

The greatest needs of the Church in Ethiopia, and indeed in all Africa, is theological education, spiritual formation and leadership. In 2012, God sent the Rev. Dr. Grant LeMarquand to become the new Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa with a vision to meet the need by starting a school of theology.

Building upon our experience with the Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt, we decided to start two new campuses in Africa: St. Cyprian’s College in Tunisia and St. Frumentius’ College in Ethiopia. The main goal of these campuses is to form local leaders for the church through providing theological training and spiritual formation.
There are currently 16 clergy serving in 80 churches in Ethiopia, only one of whom has formal theological education. St. Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College will train existing clergy, and new lay and ordained leaders, who will be able to transform the church and address the spiritual and cultural challenges in society.

I believe that St. Frumentius’ College will transform the Church in the Horn of Africa, as we seek to develop a mature and fully indigenous church. I request your prayers for Bishop Grant and for the fulfilment of this vision.

For more information, please download the full proposal below:

Download the Full Proposal

or visit the website of the St. Frumentius’ College: http://frumentiuscollege.dioceseofegypt.org/

 

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