Egypt Needs Christian Witness

“For Egypt, the Christians are an indispensable force. They can contribute to opening up the country.” With these words, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut, Kyrillos William Samaan, affirmed the significance of Christians in the reshaping of Egypt.

Since mid-February, Bishop Kyrillos has deputized for the seriously ill Patriarch of Alexandria (with headquarters in Cairo), Cardinal Antonios Naguib, as the head of the country’s Coptic Catholic Church.

Although the Christians’ situation remains uncertain following the election of the former spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, as Egypt’s new President, the Bishop pointed out that it is positive that the President directly addressed the Christians in his first speech.

Since promises have often been broken in the past, however, hopes are counterbalanced by fears.

“Nevertheless, the Church is encouraging the faithful to remain and to help in the reconstruction of Egypt,” Bishop Kyrillos further emphasized during a visit to international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Catholic leader described how Christians in Egypt are second-class citizens who face discrimination as part of their everyday life, and the latest political transformation has not altered this fundamental fact.

Attacks by Muslims occur repeatedly, Bishop Kyrillos confirmed, and invective is the order of the day. As a result, Christians do not feel really secure and free.

Given this situation, many younger people in particular want to leave their homeland, saying they have no future there. But the bishop said aid and solidarity from abroad can give them new perspectives and encourage them to stay.

During his visit, Bishop Kyrillos thanked ACN for its ongoing involvement in Egypt. For many years, the charity has supported projects on the Nile that serve the aims of training and education, dialogue and reconciliation.

In Tema, a small town some 249 miles south of Cairo, ACN helped to fund the building of a multi-story pastoral center. The new facility has strengthened the local congregation and led to a sustained improvement in its situation.

The bishop said that Christians in Egypt help convey a sense of respect for others as well as the willingness to take responsibility for others and to live together in peace.

Bishop Kyrillos added, “Christian witness is important. Our pastoral and social initiatives stand for essential Christian values.”

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org
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