Al-Azhar hosts meeting on co-existence between Muslims and Christians

e0a173f2-073c-49d2-bf68-aa095d9273b7_16x9_788x442Top Muslim and Christian clerics from the Middle East gathered in Cairo on Tuesday for a two-day conference on promoting co-existence, as sectarian conflict continues to ravage the region.

The “Freedom and Citizenship” conference is hosted by Al-Azhar, one of the leading Sunni Muslim authorities based in Cairo.

It comes as Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Sinai flee attacks by Islamic State group jihadists who are waging an insurgency in the peninsula.

“Exonerating religions from terrorism no longer suffices in the face of these barbaric challenges,” Al-Azhar’s head Sheikh Ahmed Tayeb said in a speech on the opening day, referring to regional conflicts.

Tayeb called for dispelling “the lingering mistrust and tensions between religious leaders that are no longer justified, for if there is no peace between the proponents of religions first, the proponents cannot give it to the people.”

Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II called for “fighting extremist thought with enlightened thought.”

He said: “Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought resulting from a mistaken understanding of religion that has led to terrorism.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL-ARABIYA 

Muslim and Christian leaders in Cairo to discuss ways to promote social harmony

egyptCAIRO // Muslim scholars and Christian leaders from 50 countries, including the UAE, will issue a declaration on Muslim-Christian coexistence after a two-day conference.

As they hold discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday, religious and political experts will explore ways to promote social harmony for all faiths living within Arab and Muslim nations.

In the Egyptian capital where terrorist attacks on churches have taken place, those taking part will discuss recent experiences and what needs to be done to embrace diversity and integration.

The conference is organised by the UAE’s Muslim Council of Elders and Al Azhar, the global seat of Sunni Muslim learning, based in Cairo.

Muslim and Christian religious figures need to lead by example and spend more time harmonising so members of society will follow their footsteps, said Anba Ermia, General Bishop and president of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Centre.

Bishop Ermia was speaking ahead of the conference during a visit to Saint Peter’s church, where a bombing in December killed 29 people.

 “It is in the nature of Arabs to be influenced by their religious leaders, so when they are seen together some will reconsider their rejection of the other,” he said.

When such discussions are held, the door remains open for feedback and further discussion, Bishop Ermia said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL (UAE)

News on the Bombings in Egypt from the Egyptian Press

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The pace of violence has returned to escalate again following a decline for a while, with three terrorist attacks, blown by terrorist groups against the Egyptian state.
The first attack targeted a security checkpoint in Haram area, Giza, killing 6 policemen on Friday; secondly, an explosion hit a police vehicle in Kafr el-Sheikh governorate, on the same day, killing a citizen and injuring three policemen; and thirdly, a terrorist attack targeting Botroseya Church, in the vicinity of Saint Mark Cathedral on Sunday, killing 25 martyrs and injuring 53 people.
Observers link the 3 incidents to the final verdict against prominent Islamist militant Adel Habbara, the arrest of Osama, son of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, the killing of terrorist Abdallah Azzam in Qalyubiya, and killing of three members of the terrorist group Hasm in Assuit.
The attack on Botroseya Church is also regarded as a punishment to Copts for supporting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Other analysts reject linking the arrest of Osama Morsi and the verdict against Habbara to the terrorist incidents, as these attacks have been planned previously; and they are taking advantage of a big security flaw, the perpetrators having studied the target for a while and implementing the attack after they found a security hiatus.
Some have put forward a different vision, as the incident comes in response to the accusations by terrorist groups to the Church of supporting President Sisi and the nation in all crises and fighting terrorism — doing so in order to destroy the unity of the nation and to try to suggest that the situation in Egypt is unstable.

Two Tragedies Underscore Need for Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Two criminal tragedies in two different places underscore the need to work harder than we are on developing better relations between Christians and Muslims:

A HATE CRIME IN CALIFORNIA

Man stabs worshiper at Simi Valley mosque in hate crime, police allege

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A 29-year-old Simi Valley man has been arrested and booked on suspicion of committing a hate crime after he stabbed an apparent worshiper near a mosque, authorities say.

About 11:15 p.m. Saturday, Simi Valley police received reports of people fighting in a shopping center parking lot in the 1800 block of Erringer Road, said Sgt. Adam Darough. The shopping center is “adjacent” to a mosque, Darough said.

 After officers arrived and separated those involved in the fight, police discovered that a man had been stabbed, Darough said.

“During their investigation, [officers] discovered a suspect had confronted a worshiper from the mosque, and after a verbal altercation, they began to fight,” Darough said. “During the fight, [the suspect] stabbed the victim.”

FULL ARTICLE IN LA TIMES 

TERRORISTS KILL 25 IN EGYPTIAN CHURCH

On Muhammad’s birthday, bomb kills 25 at Coptic church in Egypt

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A bomb ripped through Cairo’s Coptic cathedral complex during Sunday Mass, killing at least 25 people and injuring 49, and delivering the bloodiest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in recent years, according to Egyptian officials and Christian community leaders.

The explosion unfolded inside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at the 100-year-old Botrosiya Church, also known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, shortly after the 200 or so worshipers had stopped reading Bible verses and the priest was getting to ready to start his sermon, witnesses said.

About 9:45 a.m., “everything turned black suddenly,” Qelliny Farag said.

As of Sunday evening, there had been no claims of responsibility. But suspicion immediately fell on Islamist extremists, including Egypt’s Islamic State branch, who have staged numerous attacks across the country this year targeting soldiers, police and government officials. Sunday’s carnage came less than 48 hours after a bomb killed six police officers and injured an additional three on a road leading to Egypt’s famed Great Pyramids complex.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

 

 

Catholic-Muslim Relations: Vatican And Al-Azhar Mosque In Cairo To Relaunch Dialogue

pope_gives_sheik_of_al-azhar_medallion_of_the_olive_of_peacrThe Vatican has announced it will send a representative to Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque on Sunday ahead of an official resumption of dialogue between the Catholic Church’s governing body and the most prestigious learning center in Sunni Islam.

Al-Azhar broke off talks with the Vatican five years ago after comments from then-Pope Benedict XVI. But relations have improved significantly under Pope Francis, who earlier this year held talks with the grand imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

Now, it has been announced that the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, will set off to Cairo to meet a delegation with Al-Azhar. The meeting is intended to lay the groundwork for a further encounter in Rome in April 2017, reports the Catholic News Agency which describes it as a seismic step in Catholic-Muslim relations.

The relationship first became strained after a speech by the since-retired Benedict in 2006 when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor’s unfavorable views of Islam’s founder.

“The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,” the Pope said. “He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'”

In 2011, Egypt recalled its Vatican envoy after Benedict called on world leaders to protect Copts – the largest Christian denomination in Egypt – following a church bombing in the country that killed 21 people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES 

Christians and Muslims Gather at Egypt’s al-Azhar University to Condemn Islamist Terrorism

topicCairo/Aleteia (Aleteia.org/ar) – Muslim and Christian theologians agreed to promote the concept of brotherhood among Christians, Muslims and adherents of other religions in the face of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.

Last week, Al-Azhar, the highest authority for Sunni Islam, convened an international conference on terrorism at al-Azhar University in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday and Thursday (12/10 and 12/11). The conference brought together 600 Islamic and Christian theologians from 120 countries and included several patriarchs or their representatives. The conference was led by both Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyib.

Participants stressed a priority of applying the “moderate way” of Islam. The meeting centered on the necessity of teaching the correct concept of “Jihad” and opposition to brainwashing the youth who are fighting alongside the Islamic State group.

Though the conference condemned terrorism in the name of Islam, which distorts the true face of the religion, al-Azhar issued a statement formally rejecting the labeling of Islamic State fighters as apostates. The publication Asharq al-Awsat explained that the practice of one Muslim declaring another to be an apostate–takfirism–is controversial within Islam. “While this is something that is actively practiced by Islamist groups like ISIS, it is generally rejected by adherents of mainstream interpretations of Islam,” the publication said.

“Al-Azhar rejects the takfirism of ISIS…. Because takfirism cannot be applied to any believer, regardless of his sins,” Al-Azhar said in a statement in response to comments made by the Mufti of Nigeria during the counter-terrorism conference.

In their closing statement, participants said that “terrorizing the safety of civilians, killing the innocent and attacking holy places are all crimes against humanity, and Islam severely condemns such acts.” Muslims, Christians and followers of any other religion in the Middle East are brothers and citizens who are caretakers of the same land, the conference concluded, noting the long history of coexistence in the Middle East. The conference pleaded with Christians not to leave but to stand steadfast until the current storm passes. Hostilities against Christians and the faithful of other religions through false piety are considered disobedience to the true teachings of Islam, it said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM aleteia.org

Sister Sanaa Nadim, Muslim Student Association chaplain, works to dispel misconceptions about Islam

N_SisterSanaa_StockPhoto-250x375Twenty years ago, a former foreign-exchange trader on Park Avenue became the chaplain of Stony Brook University’s Muslim Student Association. When asked how such a transition could happen, Sister Sanaa Nadim, 56, paused for a moment and pointed up.

“Destiny,” she said. “Destiny prevails.”

Destiny put Nadim on the second floor of Stony Brook’s Student Union, among the offices of the Interfaith Center, as the first female Muslim chaplain for any Muslim Student Association in the country. It has been a departure from a “well-off” childhood spent in private school and her time in the private sector.

Nadim grew up in Cairo, Egypt, as the youngest of seven children of a father who was a poet and businessman and a mother who was “big on charity and family.” She spent summers at a home on the Mediterranean Sea, wearing shorts and mini-jupes, playing sports and never getting negative comments from men. Cairo was like any city around the world, except for traditional music, she said.

“It was the most amazing childhood, not simply because we were well-off, but just the time was beautiful, the world was beautiful,” she said. She called it a non-judgmental time when people did not think about appearance as a fundamental issue of faith.

Everything changed with start of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Nadim said. She recalled one day at her French private school when she was told that Egypt was at war. Life was not as happy as it was, she continued, because her family lost a lot of its wealth, people were suffering and it was a time of war, but she did not understand why.

“We were never taught anything about differences between us and other people,” Nadim said. “It was one world and people lived in it and that was it. And I think I took that with me forever.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STATESMAN