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 

Egyptian priest praises Muslim support of threatened Christians

EGYPT CHRISTIANS SINAIOXFORD, England – A spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church praised local Muslims for helping embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can –  they’re often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,” he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s North Sinai region.

Greiche said the attacks had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

Greiche said Islamic State militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations to use tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

He added that civilians were better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

“You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

The Monk Who Saves Manuscripts From ISIS

lead_960Rescuing the world’s most precious antiquities from destruction is a painstaking project—and a Benedictine monk may seem like an unlikely person to lead the charge. But Father Columba Stewart is determined. Soft-spoken, dressed in flowing black robes, this 59-year-old American has spent the past 13 years roaming from the Balkans to the Middle East in an effort to save Christian and Islamic manuscripts threatened by wars, theft, weather—and, lately, the Islamic State.

“Given what’s happened in the last years since the rise of ISIS, it’s very clear that things are really endangered,” Stewart said. “It’s imperative to make sure that these manuscripts are safe, because we don’t know what will happen to them.”

As ISIS militants have destroyed countless artifacts, Stewart has attempted to counter them by working with Christian and Muslim communities in hotspots such as Iraq and Syria. He has trained local teams to photograph centuries-old books with the help of the non-profit organization he directs, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML). Based out of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, HMML is dedicated to preserving endangered manuscripts on microfilm and in digital format. So far, it has managed to photograph more than 140,000 complete manuscripts, for a total of more than 50,000,000 handwritten pages, according to the organization’s website.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

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)

I Am a Member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Not a Terrorist

23haddad-master768TORA, Egypt — I write this from the darkness of solitary confinement in Egypt’s most notorious prison, where I have been held for more than three years. I am forced to write these words because an inquiry is underway in the United States regarding charges that the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization to which I have devoted years of my life, is a terrorist group.

We are not terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s philosophy is inspired by an understanding of Islam that emphasizes the values of social justice, equality and the rule of law. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has lived in two modes: surviving in hostile political environments or uplifting society’s most marginalized. As such, we have been written about, spoken of, but rarely heard from. It is in that spirit that I hope these words find light.

We are a morally conservative, socially aware grass-roots movement that has dedicated its resources to public service for the past nine decades. Our idea is very simple: We believe that faith must translate into action. That the test of faith is the good you want to do in the lives of others, and that people working together is the only way to develop a nation, meet the aspirations of its youth and engage the world constructively. We believe that our faith is inherently pluralistic and comprehensive and that no one has a divine mandate or the right to impose a single vision on society.

Since our inception, we have been engaged politically in the institutions of our country as well as socially to address the direct needs of people. Despite being the most persecuted group under former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt, our involvement in the Parliament, either in coalitions with other political groups or as independents, is a testament to our commitment to legal change and reform. We spoke truth to power in an environment full of rubber-stamp parties. We worked with independent pro-democracy organizations against plans to hand the presidency to Mr. Mubarak’s son. We also worked closely with an array of professional syndicates and labor unions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy

09thu2web-master675.jpgIs President Trump trying to make enemies of the entire Muslim world? That could well happen if he follows up his primitive ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim nations with an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood — perhaps the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East — as a terrorist organization.

Such an order, now under consideration, would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.

The struggle against extremism is complex, and solutions must be tailored both to the facts and to an understanding of the likely consequences. Since 1997, the secretary of state has had the power to designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations, thus subjecting them, as well as people and businesses who deal with them, to sanctions, like freezing their assets. President Barack Obama resisted adding the Brotherhood to that list.

There are good reasons that the Brotherhood, with millions of members, doesn’t merit the terrorist designation. Rather than a single organization, it is a collection of groups and movements that can vary widely from country to country. While the Brotherhood calls for a society governed by Islamic law, it renounced violence decades ago, has supported elections and has become a political and social organization. Its branches often have tenuous connections to the original movement founded in Egypt in 1928.

Under State Department guidelines, the “terrorist” designation is intended to punish groups that carry out terrorist attacks. There’s no question that some such groups have grown out of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, the adversary of Israel, which the United States named a terrorist organization in 1997. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has worked to crush the Brotherhood in his country since he overthrew his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, in 2013. But there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt, according to the analysts Michele Dunne and Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Muslims condemn ‘evil attacks’ which killed 24 Christians on the Coptic Church in Egypt

ramzy-jpg-galleryMUSLIMS in Oxford have condemned the ‘evil attacks’ on the Coptic Church in Egypt which killed 25 people.

Dr Hojjat Ramzy, director of Oxford Islamic information centre, gave his ‘sincere condolences’ on behalf of Muslim community of the city to the families affected.

Egyptians are holding prayers for the 24 Christians killed at a church next to main Coptic cathedral in Cairo.

The bomb went off during Sunday Mass at a chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral in the capital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Today, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi identified the bomber as 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed Mustafa.

He said three men and a woman had been arrested in connection with the attack.

The president spoke after Health Ministry officials revised down the number of victims to 24, suggesting that the 25th body belonged to the bomber.

Dr Ramzy told the Oxford Mail: “I believe this was an evil act of people who have no respect for sanctity of life.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE OXFORD MAIL