Egypt’s Ambassador on “religious terrorism” and more…
Though Pope Benedict did not actually name the country in his annual speech Monday
to diplomats, Egypt would have come to the mind of many when the Pope highlighted
North Africa and the Middle East where he said young people have “launched a vast
movement calling for reforms and a more active share in political and social life.”
Egypt’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, told Vatican
Radio’s Tracey McClure that she was not surprised the Pope did not mention her country
by name in his discourse, as Egypt, she noted, is just one of many countries participating
in the Arab Spring.
In his address to diplomats from around the world, the
Pope spoke of what he called “religiously motivated terrorism – especially in Asia
and Africa.” When asked if repeated attacks on Christian, mainly Copt, communities
in Egypt are a product of “religious terrorism,” Ambassador Mekhemar points the finger
at the former regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak as being responsible for the
New Year's bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria in which dozens of people were
killed at the start of 2011.
She explains that the former regime planted the
seeds of mistrust between many Christians and Muslims in Egypt.
the former regime as leaving the country with “the remnants of an old heritage, a
very heavy one, that we are bound to carry until we cross this very difficult time
and period of transition and go to a democratic – hopefully democratic – era.”
problem is the intrusion of political actors who really ignite for their own interests,
these feelings of mistrust and inject misconceptions…”
Commenting on Pope Benedict’s
reference to education as a source that can encourage religious tolerance and respect
for the “other,” Ambassador Mekhemar says “of course, education is instrumental in
the life of any people. I think we’ll see more of an open education system, but this
will always depend on how much freedom we have in our system because it is with freedom,
with freedom in general – with respect of all human rights – that religious freedom
is brought about.”
Some Christians are considering leaving the country due
to concerns about the rise of conservative Islam in a future Egypt.
think we can even imagine an Egypt without its Christians,” says the Ambassador.
“They are part of this population but not (just) an integral part – more than that.
I don’t think we can imagine our Egypt without 10 million (Christian) Egyptians.”
is Christians and Muslims. It has always been like that and it will remain like this.
I understand the fears and concerns of the Christian community. Of course, when you
have a conservative power, or a conservative group in power, of course, concerns are
there and fears are there that some things might change in the way they are treated
– the (way) .Christians are treated – in the country. But I really don’t believe
so. I really think that all again will depend on our will to establish a democratic
system because it is with democracy that people get over their differences, that minority
rights are respected.”
“With the rise of Islamic parties in parliament, of
course one can imagine that some changes will happen in the mode of life in Egypt
– concerning either Muslims or Christians. Of course, maybe Christians are concerned
more. But I don’t think the majority in the parliament will commit or enact any laws
that would affect the rights of Christians in Egypt. This would be a very unwise
step to take.”
“I think the revolution has been there in order to get over
inequalities and end inequalities between people so I don’t think they will have any
way to do that – even if they want. I don’t think Egyptians will allow them to do
Listen to Tracey McClure’s entire interview with Ambassador Mekhemar who
describes the Pope’s words to diplomats as “balanced” and “positive” :