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Vicar of Baghdad cries for help: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The “Vicar of Baghdad”, the Rev. Canon Andrew White, has issued a plea for Anglicans to come to the aid of the people of Iraq, after Sunni Muslim extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control large swathes of the country. “Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been. The Islamic terrorists have taken control of the whole of Mosul which is Nineveh the main Christian stronghold. The army have even fled. We urgently need help and support,” Canon White wrote. “Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS, a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS. The area is the heartland of the Christian community. Most of our people come from Nineveh and still see that as their home. It is there that they return to regularly. Many Christian’s fled from back to Nineveh from Baghdad, as things got so bad there. Now the Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. The ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk, major areas to the Oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war that all the Iraqi military have now retreated from. People have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Kurdistan still in Iraq for safety. The Kurds have even closed the border, preventing entry of the masses. The crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to consider what is really happening.” Money was needed to care for refugees streaming into Baghdad, Canon White said. “We need your help.” http://frrme.org/canon-andrews-blog/

Place for Christians in the new Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, June 13, 2014 June 26, 2014

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The new president of Egypt Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi was has reaffirmed the equal place of Christians in society, lauding their contributions to the country’s culture and national unity. In his inauguration speech broadcast to the nation on 8 June 2014 from the el-Quba Palace, al-Sisi laid out an ambitious plan of economic and social renewal promising to build 26 new tourist resorts, eight new airports and 22 industrial estates.  And he promised “there will no exclusion of any Egyptian from our march.” Egypt’s Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, the Anglican Bishop of Egypt the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis and other Christian leaders have given the new president their wholehearted support. The president responded in his speech by singling out the contributions of Christians to the life of the country, and added that he would not tolerate their oppression. “As for those who shed the blood of the innocents, there will be no place for them in this path,” al-Sisi said in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. “And I say it loud and clear, there will be no soft stand with anyone who resorts to violence or whoever wants to delay our march towards the future that we want for our children.”

Egyptian church lauds elections: The Church of England Newspaper, June 6, 2014 June 17, 2014

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The Anglican Bishop of Egypt, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, has released a statement applauding the freedom and fairness of Egypt’s presidential elections. In a letter released on 30 May 2014, Dr. Anis said that “as soon as the people heard even the initial results being announced, they gathered in squares in cities throughout Egypt, especially in Cairo and Alexandria. The results indicated that Field Marshal Abdul Fatah Al Sisi has won the elections, receiving more than 23 million votes out of 25 million people who voted. His opponent, Mr. Hamdine Sabahi, received just less than one million votes, with another million votes for neither of the two candidates.” Dr. Anis, who is also the Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East noted “many people held peaceful celebrations throughout the night in Tahrir square. They danced and carried the flag of Egypt and posters of Al Sisi.” He added that “I personally think that President Al Sisi is the right choice at this time because Egypt needs a president who can reestablish the security of the country. Without security, tourism and the economic situation will not improve. The new president has to work hard in order to meet the many challenges that are facing Egypt, including the financial situation and the concerns of those who think that Egypt will be ruled in a military-like way.”

Vicar of Baghdad honored: The Church of England Newspaper, May 30, 2014 June 17, 2014

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The “Vicar of Baghdad” the Rev. Canon Andrew White has been given the 2014 William Wilberforce Award by an American evangelical think-tank, the Chuck Colson Center. On 3 May 2014, Canon White, who serves as vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad was honored for “his extraordinary strides in reconciliation and restoration in the face of overwhelming challenges.” The Colson Center singled out Canon White’s work in building a “positive relationship with the government and people of Iraq on every level, from grassroots to the business community to the military. Located in the city’s Red Zone, his church serves 6,000 Iraqi citizens each week — a stunning number for a country with a 97% Muslim population.” The Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis offered his congratulations ot Canon White, noting that not only had he worked towards building peace within the caldron of Iraq, “he has also helped to bring together various groups in Israel and Palestine for many years.”

Joy and democracy in Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, January 24, 2014 February 3, 2014

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Last week’s referendum on a new constitution was marked by joy and dancing in the street, the Bishop of Egypt reports, as the country showed its support for the ousting of former President Mohammad Mursi.

“I can see my beloved country standing on the doorstep of a new day,” Dr Mouneer Anis said on 15 January 2014.

Approximately 39 per cent of Egypt’s 53 million eligible voters turned out to vote on 15-16 January 2014, the country’s election committee reported, with the new constitution receiving 98.1 per cent approval.

Dr Anis reported the Muslim Brotherhood has urged its followers to boycott the referendum. “Going to the polls was risky because of those who were trying to use violence to scare people from voting, but the army and the police exerted a great effort to protect the polls and to give assurance to the people who would like to vote,” the Bishop said.

“The new Constitution affirms equality and the rights of women within Egyptian society,” the Bishop said, and was the product of a popular front government that included “representatives of all sectors of the society” including Christians.

“It was a phenomenon to see crowds of women at each poll, many of whom queued for hours to vote. Some of them were singing and rejoicing, and even dancing, before and after they cast their vote. There was a general spirit of joy among the people of Egypt who voted, in a way that never happened before,” Dr Anis said.

Under the draft constitution, Islam remains the state religion, but freedom of belief is absolute. The state guarantees “equality between men and women” and forbids political parties based on “religion, race, gender or geography”.

Intended Consequences–The Times & Jewish Jerusalem: Get Religion, September 20, 2013. September 20, 2013

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Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his choice man chooses not only between various material things and services. All human values are offered for option. All ends and all means, both material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which picks out one thing and sets aside another. Nothing that men aim at or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement into a unique scale of gradation and preference.

Ludwig von Mises, On Human Action. (San Francisco: Fox  Wilkes, 1996 4th rev. ed.) p 3.

Newspaper writing is about making choices. They range from choosing a topic and its parameters to the style of writing, the story’s length and the degree of context down to the language used. Choices are conscious and unconscious. While I should think about the framing of a story — being aware of the worldview I bring to an issue — before I write. I do not do it as often as I should.

But the preconceived notions and assumption I bring add value as I can stories in their historical/political context. I am able to discern if issue X is important, urgent or tired. Spin from PR flacks seldom moves me. Yet I have never written a sports story and can draw upon no well of knowledge to make an informed choice.

The conscious and unconscious choice applies to language. When I write “marriage equality” rather than “gay marriage” I am making a political choice with my vocabulary that signals the editorial stance of the publication or my personal views. This was especially true when I wrote for the Jerusalem Post. Through my upbringing and culture I knew to write “Jerusalem” as it would not have occurred to me to write “Al Quds”. But I learned to say “Judea and Samaria” not the “Occupied Territories” and “separation barrier” not “the wall” in line with the newspaper’s editorial policies. The vocabulary I brought to a story, whether innate to my worldview or learned from my employers, framed the article.

Choice results in consequences, whether intended or not. Let me draw your attention to the work of The Times foreign correspondent Michael Binyon to illustrate this point.

Binyon has penned a superior piece on one of the major under reported stories from the Arab Spring — the plight of Arab Christians. Taking as its news peg a report on a conference of church leaders in Amman hosted by King Abdullah of Jordan The Times article entitled “Middle East Christians face a bleak future” takes an indirect, but highly effective route in telling its story. It is a master class lesson in the craft of newspaper writing.

Yet this story also rang alarm bells within the Jewish community in Britain. “Did conference speakers call for the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem?”, a prominent Jewish activist asked me after she read the article. “Had the Church of England gone over to the replacement theology camp?” This did not appear in a surface reading of the paper, but I immediately grasped her concern when I read the story again through her eyes.

The Times lede is beautifully written.

Their churches have been bombed, burnt and ransacked. Thousands flee their homes to seek safety in exile, as ­Islamist extremists incite mobs to ­attack the dwindling communities that remain. Christians in the Middle East are today facing the ­greatest dangers they have known for centuries.

Moving from a strong opening, the article succinctly gives the who, what, when and where — before moving into an extended treatment of the why. Again, this is nicely and professionally done — you see the hand of a professional at work here.

The article then passes to a serious of comments and observations from participants, that give substance to the theme articulated in the lede. And at the end we hear from Church of England (hurrah!).

The Anglicans were well represented. The Episcopal bishops of Egypt and Jerusalem were joined by the Rev. Toby Howarth from Lambeth Palace and former Bishop Michael Langrish of Exeter representing the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mr Howarth made the point that Western Christians too often had a skewed assumption that Christianity was an import to the Middle East rather than an export from it. And he underlined the importance of intra-Christian and intra-Muslim dialogue.

He was also one of the few speakers to note the importance of women in faith issues. Only two nuns joined the panel of 80 male clerics. One male speaker said that if faith issues were left to women half the problems would disappear immediately.

Aside from the male cleric’s patronizing comment about women — and what did he mean by saying that if half the people (men) left you would have half the problems you now have? — there seemed little objectionable in these comments, and nothing that would suggest an anti-Jewish attack from the CoE.

But further up in the article, we read that Arab Christians

had taken a full part in the wars against Israel and were in the forefront in the fight to maintain the Arab presence in Jerusalem and prevent its judiacisation.

In the worldview of my British Jewish friend the “judiacisation” reference prompted concerns that at this conference Christian Arabs had called for a Judenfrei Jerusalem. Though former Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs of Iran are the best known proponents of driving the Jews into the sea, the expulsion of Jews from the Arab world — from Morocco to Iran — in the years since 1948 is an open wound in the Israeli psyche. If some Christian Arabs had made this call — echoing their political leaders in the Palestinian Authority or other Arab states — had the Church of England and the bishops of Egypt and Jerusalem remained silent. By their silence were Anglicans implying consent to the calls to de-Judiaze Jerusalem?

If true, this was quite a story. “Church silence on Jew bating” would have been a fun headline, while the church journals would take a story on Anglican Replacement Theology.

To find out, I thought I would ask. A checked with Canon Toby Howarth from Lambeth Palace (the shorthand way to refer to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff). Dr, Howarth told me he had no knowledge of any calls from conference speakers to expel the Jews. I also raised the issue with the Bishop of Egypt at breakfast on Thursday — we were both attending conference at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. He had no memory of any anti-Semitic comments from the conference podium, but added that from the perspective of the Christian Arab, the judiacisation controversy was not about expelling Jews from Jerusalem, but Jews expelling Arab from Jerusalem.

The last patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem had been removed from office after he had been accused in acquiescing to the sale of church lands to Jewish businessmen. The gentrification of Jerusalem was forcing Arabs out of the city by pricing them out of the housing market or removing housing available to Arabs from the market, the bishop said.

Which perception is true? Both, none, one?

Had The Times intended to press this button in their story about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. I think it most unlikely. But the use of “judiacisation” without explanation prompted some readers hear things that other readers did not.

First printed in Get Religion.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 80: August 31, 2013 September 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican.TV, Church of England, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Fort Worth, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Published on Sep 1, 2013

Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

STORY INDEX:
Communion Bishops go to Canterbury 00:00
Texas & South Carolina Victories 07:23
Teaching Americans how to speak English 18:11
It is Just a War 31:50
Trimming the dead branches 39:38
Closing and Bloooopers 44:21

Chaos in Egypt: Anglican Ink, August 22, 2013 August 22, 2013

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The political chaos in Egypt can only be resolved by Egyptians, the country’s Council of Churches has declared, warning foreign governments and jihadists to keep out of Egypt.

The Council, led by Pope Tawadros II, “affirmed the right of its citizens to defend themselves against terrorism.” It follows a weekend of anti-Christian violence and arson by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have destroyed over four dozen Christian churches and schools this week.

The 17 Aug 2013 statement from the pan-Christian council, which represents the Coptic, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and reformed churches comes in the wake of reports that Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis had been detained by police after Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations were dispersed.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt, on 14 Aug 2013 released a statement reporting St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez was “under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Millions march in support of Egypt’s coup: The Church of England Newspaper, August 11, 2013 p 5 August 16, 2013

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An Egyptian court has ordered the detention of former Pres. Muhammad Mursi on charges of treason.

The arrest accompanied by a call by the Army to the Egyptian people to back its coup prompted the largest public demonstration in Egypt’s history. The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics reported that an estimated 35 million people took to the streets on 26 July 2013 to voice their support for the army coup that ousted Pres. Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.

The court ordered Pres. Morsi be detained for 15 days while it investigated charges he collaborated with the militant Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in organizing a mass escape from Wadi el-Natroun Prison during Egypt’s 2011 uprising. The former president is said to have used Hamas agents to assist the Muslim Brotherhood in murdering political rivals, and attacking police stations during the uprising Ahram Online reported.

The president of the Bible Society of Egypt Ramez Atallah said the July 26 demonstrations were an accurate measure of Egyptian political sentiment. “[A]n incredible number of people took to the streets to show their solidarity against the aggressive and disruptive behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood  protestors. Like they did on June 30th, the ‘Silent Majority’ – who usually sit at home and watch political events on their TV screens – voted with their feet, taking to the streets in very large numbers.  People went to the demonstration sites from every conceivable place and it was an amazing night of celebration and jubilation, affirming together an Egypt where all are respected as equal citizens.”

Mr. Atallah said the demonstration heralded “unprecedented acts of unity” between Christians and Muslims. “When the call to break the [Ramadan] fast was announced at sunset on July 26th, all church bells in Egypt rang in solidarity with their Muslim compatriots,” he said.

And unlike the protests staged by the Muslim Brotherhood “remarkably few incidents of violence, petty theft and harassment of women were reported. The euphoria of the people went on all night as massive crowds again expressed their rejection of the “Political Islam” agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

The Rev. Drew W. Schmotzer, Chaplain to Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt and rector of St. Mark’s Church in Menouf, told The Church of England Newspaper the majority of Egyptians “want change which is why the military acted on their behalf and removed President Mursi.”

The new government has “consulted both Pope Tawadros and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar” in establishing the new regime, he added, noting “this is an important step forward.”

However, while “there are moments when Christians and Muslims work together, and this is good, but not the norm. There is a deep chasm between the understanding of Christians and Muslims, and most judgments are based on misconceptions of the other.  I do think that steps are being taken on that front, but doing anything in the Middle East takes time,” he said.

Mr. Atallah added the Muslim Brotherhood remained a problem. The claim made by Al Jazeera that the Muslim Brotherhood were “peaceful demonstrators goes contrary to all that we are experiencing of violence and brutality on our streets.  Anyone who has the misfortune of walking or driving close to one of their demonstrations is taking his life in his hands.”

“Most Egyptians, in spite of their disdain for the Muslim Brotherhood, are very much against Egypt turning into a police (or worse, army) State and have been putting much pressure on security forces to be restrained in their response to the Muslim Brotherhood agitators,” he said.

“At the same time, the vast majority of Egyptians agree that the month-long disruption of normal life by these protesters must end.  The crowds on July 26th were there to give the government that very message,” Mr. Atallah said

Muslim Brotherhood mob lays seige to Anglican church in Port Suez: Anglican Ink, August 14, 2013 August 14, 2013

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The Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis writes:

“14 August 2013

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi.  They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church.  I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt(see attached photo), as well as a Catholic church in Suez.  Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt.  Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 78, August 9, 2013 August 10, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Church of Tanzania, Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

STORY INDEX:

Silly Story Month 00:00
News from Sydney 08:06
Egypt and Zanzibar 12:06
AS Haley 18:03
Peter Ould 32:42
Closing and Outtakes 40:51

Church backing for second Arab Spring in Egypt; The Church of England Newspaper, July 21, 2013 p 6. July 23, 2013

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Christian leaders have welcomed the overthrow of Pres. Mohammed Mursi and his Muslim brotherhood government in Egypt. Following four days of nationwide demonstrations that saw an estimated 20 million Egyptians take to the streets on 3 July 2013 the Egyptian army seized power, arresting Pres. Mursi and suspending the country’s Islamist Constitution.

“At last, Egypt is now free from the oppressive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood,” wrote the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, on 3 July.

At the start of the demonstrations, Pope Tawadros II – spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church tweeted his support, writing: “It’s wonderful to see the Egyptian people – through the idea of Tamarod and its youth – taking back their stolen revolution in a peaceful way.”

Shortly after the Army gave Pres. Mursi 48-hours to respond to the protestor’s demands, Pope Tawadros pleaded for a solution that “listens to the voice of the people” and gave his support to the opposition, tweeting “I ​​pay tribute to the big three of Egypt: the people, the army and the youth.”

Dr. Anis reported the army had “responded to the invitation of the people to intervene and force the President to step down at the request of the people of Egypt. Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi invited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of Egypt Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyib, and other political leaders, to discuss the roadmap for the future of Egypt,”

“After this meeting, it was announced that the head of the constitutional court will be an interim leader of the nation. The current controversial constitution is now suspended. The new government will involve capable people from different backgrounds.”

“As soon as Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced this, millions of Egyptians on the streets went around rejoicing, singing, dancing, and making a lot of fireworks. I have never seen Egyptians rejoicing in such a way! They deserve this joy as they insisted to write their own history,” the bishop wrote.

“Since the Muslim Brotherhood ruled the country a year ago, we Egyptians experienced divisions, exclusions, sectarian clashes, fanaticism, a decrease in tourism, and a bad economy. This is an answer to the prayers of so many people from around the world who were praying for our beloved country Egypt,” the bishop said.

On 4 July Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom released a statement saying the overthrow of Mursi regime was the second wave of the Arab Spring.

“What has been seen in the streets of Egypt over the past week would have been considered by many as impossible, especially when set against the backdrop of two years which commenced joyfully, but became increasingly challenging through a state of fragmentation, a failing economy and a weakened state of law and order,” he said.

“With the age old scourge of illiteracy and poverty unaddressed and the development of a cohesive sense of national pride and unity unrealised, the people of Egypt took to the streets to follow their desire for dignity and social justice in the way that proved successful just over two years prior,” Bishop Angelos wrote.

The path ahead was not clear, Dr Anis warned, noting there could be a “violent reaction of the Islamists.”

Pray for Egypt, the Bishop wrote. Pray for “unity and reconciliation after more than one year of divisions.”

Egypt on the brink, Anglican bishop warns: The Church of England, July 7, 2013 p 5. July 10, 2013

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Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Egypt on 30 June 2013 calling for the ouster of Mohammed Mursi on the first anniversary of the inauguration of the Muslim Brotherhood Leader as President of Egypt.

The collapse of the economy and dissatisfaction with the hardline policies of the government left Egypt on the verge of civil war, warned the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

On 27 June Dr. Anis stated the “situation in Egypt is very serious. I do not know where this situation will take us. I feel that Egypt is at the verge of violent demonstrations, another revolution, or civil war. We do not know what is going to happen, but we know that we are at the edge of something drastic.”

The state news agency reported violent protests across the country. In Cairo a mob set ablaze the party headquarters of Muslim Brotherhood, while a dozen deaths – including an American college student knifed while filming protests in Alexandria – were reported.

More than 22 million signatures have been gathered on petitions calling for Pres. Mursi to resign. However the president and the Brotherhood have held fast, while the army has remained in its barracks, deploying troops to protect only key government buildings and the Suez Canal.

Dr Anis reported that after he took power, many Egyptians hoped the country “would move forward for the better. However things became worse and are now very difficult.”

“Egyptians became divided between Islamists and non-Islamists. A constitution that was written and approved in haste was one of the main reasons for these divisions. Other reasons were the exclusion of moderates and non-Islamists from participation in the political life, and the appointment of Islamists as ministers in the Cabinet and other prominent posts. These divisions led to instability, a lack of security, and many demonstrations which in turn badly affected the economy and tourism. People started to complain from the rise of food prices, the frequent power cuts, the sectarian clashes, and lately the lack of fuel,” the bishop said.

A nationally televised speech by Pres. Mursi last week did not dampen the protests, Dr. Anis stated. He could only guess what turn events would take, but he asked Anglicans everywhere to  pray “for Egypt and for the people of Egypt” in this dark hour.

First printed in the Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop Welby to tour Holy Land: The Church of England Newspaper, June 30, 2013 p 6. June 28, 2013

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The Lambeth Palace press office reports the Archbishop of Canterbury will make his first visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week.

Archbishop Justin Welby will meet with Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, tour biblical sites and meet with government and civil society figures.

The press statement said the Archbishop was “making this trip early in his ministry because of the significance of the region, the importance of the relationships that his office has there, and because he is keenly aware of the particular pressures on the region at the moment – not least the devastating conflict in Syria, and its impact more widely.”

Accompanied by the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, the Bishop of Egypt and primate of the province and the Bishop in Jerusalem the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, Archbishop Welby is scheduled to meet the Coptic Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb.

In Jerusalem, the Archbishop will meet the Patriarchs and Head of Churches in Jerusalem and representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

He had been scheduled to meet Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, but the Ashkenazi chief rabbi has suspended himself from ministry and will refrain from carrying out any official roles during a police inquiry into charges of fraud and bribery allegations. Police raided his home and office last week following an undercover investigation into his financial dealings. The Chief Rabbi denies  the allegations.

Archbishop Welby will visit the Church of the Resurrection, the Western Wall, and Yad Vashem as well as the church hospital in Ramallah.

The Israeli press has welcomed the new Archbishop’s visit. An editorial in Arutz Sheva noted: “Archbishop Welby’s visit is highly symbolic. It is a sign that he is willing to embrace Christianity’s (and his own) Jewish roots, which is particularly important at a time when many in the Church – especially on the Left – are distancing themselves from the biblical concept of the Jews as the people destined to reside in the land of Israel.”

Egypt on the edge Bishop Anis warns: The Church of England Newspaper, April 24, 2013 April 25, 2013

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The Anglican Bishop of Egypt has warned that the sectarian battle outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo between Copts and Islamists could take the country into civil war. “Such attacks could lead the country into the abyss of sectarian sedition and deteriorate the social, economic and political conditions of the country. These actions could worsen the image of Egypt in front of the international community, “said Dr. Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Two men were killed and 89 injured on 7 April 2013 outside the cathedral as mourners left the church following the funeral of four Christians killed in the northern town of Khusus over the weekend.

Human Right’s Watch’s Middle East and North Africa deputy, Nadim Houry, called on President Mohamed Mursi to “break the cycle of impunity” that allowed Muslim hardliner to attack Christians.

“Egyptian law discriminates against Christians by prohibiting the renovation or construction of churches without a presidential decree, a requirement which is not applied to other religions and their places of worship,” she said. The NGO also accused Pres. Mursi of not taking serious steps towards investigating and halting anti-Christian violence.

Sectarian clashes outside Cairo Cathedral: Anglican Ink, April 9, 2013 April 9, 2013

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St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, Cairo

Egypt remains on edge this week after two men were killed and 89 injured in clashes between Coptic Christians and Islamists outside St. Mark’s Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo.

The Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis warned: “Such attacks could lead the country into the abyss of sectarian sedition and deteriorate the social, economic and political conditions of the country. These actions could worsen the image of Egypt in front of the international community.”

A spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Health said 66 people had been treated and released from hospital while 23 remained in care after fighting broke out on 7 April 2013  outside the cathedral as mourners left the church following a funeral for four Christians who were killed in sectarian violence in the northern town of Khusus over the weekend.

Read it all Anglican Ink.

Crisis talks to save Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, February 13, 2013 February 14, 2013

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The rector of the Al-Azhar in Cairo has convened an all-party meeting of government, opposition, and religious leaders to halt the slide towards anarchy underway in Egypt.

On 31 Jan 2013, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University and the country’s leading Islamic scholar, sat down with senior government leaders, the opposition and Muslim and Christian leaders to begin a national conversation “in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion.”

Dialogue “is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences,” Sheikh al-Tayyeb told the gathering, which included the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis.

“Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law,” the sheikh said, according to Egyptian press accounts.

The intervention by the al-Azhar follows street fighting and protests in the wake of the second anniversary of the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Analysts fear the political crisis in Egypt may lead to national collapse.

The International Crisis Group stated that what was “overshadowing” the dispute was a “a persistent, perilous standoff between on one side the president and his Islamist backers for whom elections appear to mean everything, and, on the other, opposition forces for whom they seem to mean nothing; between those in power who deny adversaries respect and those not in power who deny Islamists legitimacy. The constitution-writing process was a sad microcosm: Islamist contempt in forcing through what ought to have been a carefully constructed, consensual document; opposition recklessness in seeking to exploit the moment to topple the Brotherhood; one celebrating a narrow conception of majority rule, the other holding to a counter-productive notion of street politics.”

“Even if leaders back away from the brink, this could quickly get out of hand, as their ability to control the rank and file – and, in the case of the opposition, ability to represent the rank and file – dwindles,” the think tank wrote.

At last week’s meeting, Sheikh al-Tayyeb and Egypt’s religious leaders presented Mahmoud Ezzat, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saad el-Katatni, the head of its political party with a document that called for the renunciation of violence and a pledge to engage in dialogue with the opposition.

Across the table from the Muslim Brotherhood leaders were leaders of Egypt’s National Salvation Front – including Mohamed ElBardie, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and leader of Egypt’s Constitution Party, and former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. Representatives of Egypt’s hardline Islamist parties, including the head of the salafist Nour Party also participated in the talks.

The ten point agreement signed by the political and religious leaders agreed to renounce violence “in all its forms and manifestations” and respect the dignity of all Egyptians irrespective of religion or political views.

Dr. Anis reported after the meeting: “Today the Grand Imam invited all opposition parties and ruling party and churches. We produced a document against violence and formed a committee to prepare for a dialogue. We pray so that the Lord may put an end for this violence and bring peace to Egypt.”

Rape a weapon of war in Syria: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2013 p 7. February 14, 2013

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The Syrian civil war has sparked a refugee crisis marked by gender violence and sexual assaults, the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani reports.

In a 28 Jan 2013 statement published by the Anglican Communion News Service, Bishop Dawani said the “latest news coming out of Syria and the refugee camps is so deeply appalling and tragic.”

The bishop noted that U.N. estimated that 2.5 million peopled had been displaced by the fighting. “Many are women and children who are fleeing in fear from the ongoing sexual violence against them. The International Rescue Committee reports that those who finally make it into the refugee camps are also victimized.”

“As refugees, women and girls and boys remain vulnerable to multiple forms of gender-based violence, and unfortunately few cases are reported due to the feeling of shame or fear of retribution.”

The bishop said the “crisis requires urgent action.”

“As Christians, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide, we are called to respond to this crisis. Jesus is our example of how we are to live and Our Lord has specifically told us to ‘look after orphans and widows in their distress’.”

“We, as Christians, must work to be the bridge of reconciliation that can bring peace, with justice, to the Middle East. In this land, that all the Abrahamic faiths hold Holy, we co-exist, living side by side; however, we cannot be a silent witness to the brutal treatment of women and children. The ravages of war will leave, are leaving, deep scars that will take generations to heal.”

Bishop Dawani said it was also important to “change the archaic attitudes that dominate this region of the world. Generations of women know nothing more than continued suffering.”

“I have the deepest concern for all people, women and children, who are in Syria, and in the refugee camps in foreign lands,” the bishop said. “My prayers are ongoing for peace, with justice and reconciliation, that we can live in a world of non-violence, that we can hold our women and children as treasures and treat them with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve.”

Martial law in Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

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President Muhammad Mursi of Egypt declared a “state of emergency” for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez this week, placing the cities and their surrounding provinces under martial law.

The imposition of a curfew and suspension of civil laws on 27 Jan 2013 comes in the wake of violent riots in Port Said and four days of demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahir Square, with protesters marking the second anniversary of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime with calls for the repeal of the country’s new Sharia-law based constitution.

“Egypt is passing through a difficult moment because of the anniversary of the 25 January 2011 Revolution and the hearing of the verdict of the Port Said Football Massacre,” the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt said. “Please pray for our beloved country Egypt as many have been injured or killed in the last days because of these demonstrations, and because the country is still in a time of transition.

Clashes between police and protesters over the weekend left at least 50 dead and hundreds injured Western news agencies have reported.  The political tensions in the capital were inflamed on Saturday after a court in Port Said sentenced to death 21 men for their part in a football riot.

On 1 Feb 2012 a riot erupted in the stands of Port Said Stadium at the close of an Egyptian premier league match between the Al-Masry and Al-Ahly soccer clubs. More than 1000 people were injured and 79 killed after Al-Masry fans stormed the pitch after their 3-1 victory over Al-Ahly. The Al-Masry fans attacked the opposing side’s players and fans.

The 26 Jan 2013 death sentences sparked riots in Port Said and escalated to street battles between the security services and demonstrators.  In a nationally televised address on Sunday President Mursi said the Port Said rioters were counter revolutionaries. He had imposed martial law to prevent further violence.

“There is no room for hesitation, so that everybody knows the institution of the state is capable of protecting the citizens,” he said. “If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more than that. For the sake of Egypt, I will.”

Hopes for a democratic transformation of Egypt following the fall of the Mubarak regime have been dashed, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports with the  same “brutal tactics being employed against pro-democracy protestors by the previous military” being used by the current regime to “enforce the status quo.”

The Christian community has also fared badly from the “Arab Spring”.  Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said: “The uprising in Tahrir Square on 25 Jan 2011 inspired the world as it saw Egyptians standing side-by-side in an effort to reclaim their national identity. There was hope for a new Egypt, one that could offer its people the freedom and responsibility of equal citizenship while no longer focusing on their religious or political stance.”

“It is unfortunate however, that two years down the line we have not seen sufficient signs of this transformation, and we still witness the marginalisation and alienation of many, Christians and Muslims alike, within Egyptian society, while repeatedly witnessing others committing crimes and not being brought to justice,” the bishop said.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 64: February 3, 2013 February 4, 2013

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In this week’s episode of Anglican Unscripted your host discuss the adventure (misadventures) of Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori as she descended onto the city of Charleston last week. Allan Haley examines the legal details of the preemptive strike launched against TEC and Schori and how this battle was won. There is also much international news with stories on Egypt and Nigeria and no AU is complete without a story from Canterbury with Peter Ould – this time he talks about the coming wave of Same-Sex Marriage in England . Tweet #AU64 Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com

New York Times solves the problem of Sharia: Get Religion, February 1, 2013 February 2, 2013

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This report on Thursday’s Cairo conference from the New York Times breaks the streak of great stories it has filed from Egypt over the past few months. Long on speculation and short on facts, “Rivals Across Egypt’s Political Spectrum Hold Rare Meeting, Urging Dialogue” on page A10 of the 1 Feb 2013 issue rambles on about what the Times thinks might happen rather than report what has happened. And, (I know you  will be surprised to hear this) the article omits the role religion and religious groups play in the news.

The background to this story is the clash between the Muslim Brotherhood aligned government of President Mohamed Mursi with moderate Muslims and secularist parties to the left, a split with salafist (even more hardline Islamist) parties to the right, coupled with the persecution of religious minorities — primarily Christians, but also Baha’is, Shia, and Ahmadiya Muslims.

The Times has done a great job in reporting on the unraveling of Egypt, but this article does not live up to the standard the Gray Lady has set in its reporting so far.

The article opens with:

With Egypt’s political elites warring and street violence taking on a life of its own, young revolutionaries on Thursday tried to step into the country’s leadership vacuum, organizing a rare meeting of political forces that, in Egypt’s polarized state, was a victory in itself.  The meeting, which included representatives of secular leftist and liberal groups as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to resolve some of the most divisive issues facing the country, including whether Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, would agree to form a national unity government or amend the country’s newly approved constitution, as some opposition leaders have demanded.

The lede is framed in terms of a heroic attempt by “young revolutionaries” to bring the “warring” factions to the conference table, that must (alas) be deemed a noble failure as it did not achieve the immediate aims of “some opposition leaders” in forcing the president to change his government or revoke the new constitution. This political failure is coupled with a likely short term failure in halting the escalating violence in the streets.

Nor was there any assurance that the meeting’s principal call — to end the violence that has led to more than 50 deaths over the last week — would be heeded on the streets. Clashes during protests have become the latest polarizing issue in Egypt’s turbulent transition, with Mr. Morsi and members of his Muslim Brotherhood movement largely blaming shadowy instigators for the violence. Others, though, have faulted the country’s poorly trained security forces for a persistently heavy-handed response to protests.

The article then identifies the “organizers” of the meeting as:

a leader of the April 6th youth movement, three Brotherhood defectors and Wael Ghonim, a former Google executive who played a prominent role in the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. Group members said they met several days ago, “to look into ways of leading Egypt out of the crisis and to warn against the threats of being dragged into a cycle of violence.”

And it notes that leaders of the secularist National Salvation Front were present at the meeting along with senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders. A comment is offered by the leader of the National Salvation Front, Mohamed ElBaradei expressing boilerplate optimism, before the story moves back into a discussion of the parlous political state of the country.

At this point we get some hint that something else may be going on:

In another display of high-level concern, the talks on Thursday were held under the chairmanship of the country’s leading Muslim scholar, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Al Azhar mosque and university.  After the meeting, he said that a national dialogue, “in which all the components of the Egyptian society participate without any exclusion” was “the only means to resolve any problems or disagreements.” He urged the participants to “commit to a peaceful competition for power” and to prohibit “all types of violence and coercion to achieve goals, demands and policies.”

And the story closes out with comments from a professor from Georgetown University who warns the situation is spiraling out of control. The problem with this story is that it downplays the role of Al-Azhar at the expense of the “young revolutionaries”, neglects to give details of the 10 point communique endorsed by the government and opposition, and omits the place of religious leaders in the negotiations.

A Reuters dispatch frames this same story in a very different way:

A leading Egyptian Islamic scholar brought together rival politicians on Thursday in a bid to ease a crisis that has triggered street violence, killing more than 50 people, saying dialogue was the only way to resolve differences. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the head of al-Azhar mosque and university, brought together members of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group that propelled President Mohamed Morsi to power – with the president’s most vocal opponents, including liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei.

The emphasis in this story is the unprecedented intervention by the religious establishment into the political arena — bringing the parties to the negotiating table. The document signed by the participants was prepared by the “young revolutionaries” but it was the al-Azhar that provided the political clout to get everyone round the same table.

Egypt’s State Information Service opened its report in this way:

Political, partisan, and religious powers Thursday 31/01/2013 agreed on an al-Azhar document rejecting violence and encouraging dialogue. The document was proposed by revolution youths and drafted by al-Azhar in cooperation with all political powers that also agreed on forming a panel to draw up foundations and topics of the dialogue to restore security and stability to Egypt.

Note the reference here to “religious powers”. This can be seen again at the close of the government press bulletin which states:

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Baradei stressed the need to renounce violence and achieve consensus among all political groups, with the involvement of Al-Azhar and the Church, to resolve disputes peacefully.

Reading these reports with a careful eye you can see the religious angle grow from being a venue for the New York Times to the convener of the meeting for Reuters and the Egyptian SIS, with the added mention of “Church”. And if you delve even further into this story in the Arabic press you will learn the Nour Party — Salafists to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood — have also called for a national unity government.

And you can read the ten point communique that renounces violence “in all its forms and manifestations” and respects the dignity of all Egyptians irrespective of religion or political views. The document calls upon the state to protect the lives of its all citizens, respect the human and legal rights of all Egyptians, and observe the distinction between legitimate political protest and treason. All parties agreed to refrain from and denounce the destruction of public and private property, honor the rights of all Egyptians for free and unfettered speech, worship and belief and engage in a national dialogue to resolve the political disputes dividing the country.

The problem then with the Times report is that it leaves out news that this meeting was not just a bilateral pow-wow between Mursi and his opponents on the left, but a meeting that brought to the table salafists, secularists, moderate Muslims, Nassirites, non-believers, and Christians. The meeting also sought to address the problem of Egypt’s growing religious intolerance — the persecution of Christians, minority religious groups and non-believers.

I must admit to having inside knowledge — the Anglican Bishop of Egypt was a participant in the talks (he is the fellow in the purple cassock in the foreground of the photo of the meeting posted above). Yet the role religion played in this meeting was not conveyed to me via the secret decoder ring supplied to the fraternity of right thinking Anglicans across the globe (we’re like Freemasons but dress better) — this angle was prominent in the domestic coverage, but failed to make its way across the Atlantic to the New York Times.

Why? Could the reporters or editors be cutting down the story for space? Could they be removing the bits that would not be of interest to the Times’ readers, or do not conform to the world view of the Times‘ editorial board? Whatever the cause this story is defective — and I’m sorry to say that the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian State Information Service, even with its problematic English syntax, did a better job with this story than the Gray Lady.

This article also neglects to ask the question why? Why is Egypt on the brink of anarchy? Many factors are at work — a collapsing economy, over population, food shortages, unrealized expectations in the wake of the fall of Mubarak. But the catalyst for the on-going political disputes is the imposition of a Sharia-law based constitution, with all that entails for moderate Muslims and non-Muslims. The Times appears shy of addressing this point, of confronting the issue of Sharia law.

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, how does the Times solve a problem like Sharia? They ignore it.

First printed in Get Religion.

Al-Azhar meeting to head off civil war in Egypt: Anglican Ink, February 1, 2013 February 1, 2013

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Egypt’s warring political factions sat down with the country’s religious leaders on Thursday and endorsed a joint declaration pledging an end to the political violence that has left over sixty dead in the past week.

On 31 Jan 2013, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University and the country’s leading Islamic scholar, convened a meeting of top officials of President Mohammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood party and the secularist opposition. Egypt’s leading religious and social leaders including the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, attended the conference at the 1000-year old university in Cairo in a bid to halt Egypt’s slide toward anarchy.

Sheikh al-Tayyeb told the politicians that a national conversation “in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences.”

“Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law,” the sheikh said, according to Egyptian press accounts.

The unprecedented intervention by the al-Azhar follows two weeks of political tensions in the wake of the second anniversary of the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Last week President Mursi declared a “state of emergency” for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, placing them under martial law.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Sahara seige highlights plight of Algeria’s Christians: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2013 p 1. January 31, 2013

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Last week’s attack by Islamic militants on a natural gas refinery in the Sahara desert underscores the precarious plight of Algeria’s Christian population, church leaders in North Africa tell The Church of England Newspaper.

Anti-conversion laws coupled with after effects of the civil war between the state and Islamist extremists that left an estimated 100,000 dead during the 1990’s have made the public profession of the Christian faith dangerous. But over the past twenty five years the rate of conversions from Islam to Christianity has grown sharply, especially among the Berber people in the Kabylie region, sources in North African report.

No official statistics on the number of Christian converts are published by the state, however the missionary St. Francis Magazine in its December 2006 issue estimated the numbers being anywhere from 7,000 to 100,000.

Last week, the “Masked Brigade” a militant group linked to al Qaeda founded by Algerian terrorist Moktar Belmoktar seized the Ain Amenas refinery in the Sahara desert owned by the state oil company Sonatrach and operated by BP and Norway’s Statoil.

Communications Minister Mohamed Said stated the militants had demanded the release of jailed comrades and a ransom. However, they also planned to “blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages,” he said.

On 19 Jan 2013 Algerian Special Forces stormed the plant, ending the four day. The Algerian state news agency APS reported that 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers had been freed, while 32 terrorists and 23 hostages died over the course of the siege. Seven hostages were executed by the militants during the final assault as troops tried to free them.

However, the Associated Press reported the death toll was expected to rise as 25 additional bodies, many burnt beyond recognition, had been discovered by soldiers searching the plant for explosives after the battle.

The Foreign Office reported that three Britons had been killed in the siege and three more were missing. Twenty-two British oil workers were rescued and have been flown back to the UK, the foreign secretary reported.

The family of a Plymouth man, Allen McCloud, told the BBC they were “relieved” to learn he was safe, but had harsh words for BP and the government saying they had failed to keep the families informed. “The lack of information from all the relevant sources was very poor. We were kept up to date from friends who worked in the oil and gas industry and the news.”

The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Rev. John Ford told the BBC Mr. McCloud’s release was a “fantastic piece of news” but “it has come at the cost of so much harrowing experience of those who were also held and those who also died.”

Prime Minister David Cameron noted “people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events.”

But in a statement to the House of Commons, Mr. Cameron said: “We need to be absolutely clear whose fault this is. It is the terrorists who are responsible for this attack and for the loss of life. The action of these extremists can never be justified. We will be resolute in our determination to fight terrorism and to stand with the Algerian Government, who have paid a heavy price over many years fighting against a savage terrorist campaign.”

Sir Tony Baldry, the second church estates commissioner noted the attack had been well planned. He asked the prime minister, “Does that not emphasise the need for us to work collaboratively with our friends in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to share intelligence to try to ensure that such groups have the greatest possible difficulty in accessing weaponry and that, as far as is possible, they are denied access to the international banking system? The international community is quite rightly imposing sanctions on countries such as Iran, but we also need to do everything we can, through the intelligence services and otherwise, to frustrate such non-state actors in trying to perpetrate acts of hostility against us and others.”

The prime minister said Sir Tony was “absolutely right”, and that British policy was to create as “little space as possible for terrorist organisations” to form, “whether in the banking system or in the availability of safe havens.”

But while international attention is focused on al Qaeda, the daily lives of Algerian Christians remain difficult. The Anglican Chaplain in Algiers, the Rev. Hamdy Doud told CEN: “We praise God for giving Algeria a spirit of religious freedom and respect the other faith. They help Christians and even ex Muslims to worship freely.”

“But on the other hand the work of Christian evangelism is not allowed outside churches,” he added.

Other sources in the country note that the official tolerance of the Christian religion has not been translated into tolerance of local Christians. In 2004, Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah denounced Christian proselytizing, warning that it could lead to bloodshed. Several weeks later, in an about-face, he said that proselytizing posed no danger, and that “everyone is free to convert to the religion he finds right for him,” the MEMRI news service reported.

On 17 April 2006, the daily L’Expression reported that during a visit to the city of Constantine, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said: “We will not accept our children being turned away from their religion to Christianity under the pretext of democracy,” and that “Algerians will not accept another religion aside from Islam.”

In 2008 Algeria passed an anti-conversion law calling for heavy fines and two-to five years imprisonment for anyone convicted of urging a Muslim to convert. The law has been used to jail Evangelical pastors and to close house churches that have come to the notice of the police.

The crackdown has been especially harsh in the Kebyle. Numbering some 6 million out of Algeria’s population of 32 million, the Berbers are a non-Arab people and were the original inhabitants of the country prior to the Arab invasions of the 7th century.

Missionary activity by the Roman Catholic White Fathers during the French colonial period produced only a handful of converts, but following the expulsion of missionaries in the early 1970’s an underground Protestant church began to take root with some mission groups placing the number of Christians at 100,000.

While there is debate over the scope of conversion to Christianity among the Berber people, the issue has sparked concern amongst Muslim and government leaders, and frequent newspaper comment. The Algerian daily El-Shourouq El-Yawmi gas denounced Christmas celebrations featuring the arrival of Santa Claus as a sign of the “Christianization” of the region and as “the death arriving from the West.”

First round win for Islamists in Egyptian constitutional referendum: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2012 p 6. December 28, 2012

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The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed victory in the first round of voting to introduce a Sharia Law-based constitution for Egypt.  Unofficial returns after Saturday’s vote released by President Mohammed Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) show 56.6 per cent of ballots cast were in favour of the new constitution, while 43.5 per cent were opposed.

However, the Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring Elections said in a statement after the polls closed on Saturday there were “cases of voter intimidation, delaying the voting process, and early closure of some voting centers with no clear reasons,” while the Egyptian Independent newspaper reported that in some polling places Coptic Christians were not allowed to vote.

In a pastoral letter released on the eve of the vote, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis warned the political battle between Islamists and moderates may push Egypt into civil war.

“I cannot tell you how much I am heavy-hearted because of what is going on in my beloved country Egypt,” Dr. Anis said, as “many Egyptians were expecting that after the 25 January Revolution in 2011 there would be no exclusion for any citizen or groups because of their political or religious stance. Sadly, we are still groaning for this equality.”

The new constitution posed significant problems for Christians, women and moderate Muslims, the bishop said as the constitution would empower religious vigilante groups to impose their views on society. “We have already seen some groups such as ‘The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ who, in the name of Islam, punish others without resorting to the legal authorities,” the bishop wrote, noting the language of the new constitution would give their actions the force of law.

“Another example would be how Article 2 mentions that ‘the principles of the Islamic sharia is the source of all legislation’ while Article 219 defines ‘the principle of the Islamic sharia’ in a vague way which can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the different Islamic sects,” the bishop wrote.

This breakdown of public trust in the government over the constitutional reform process had led to street fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democracy activists.  “The two demonstrating groups became violent and more than 450 people were injured and 8 people were killed. The demonstrations continue now and the fear is that another wave of violence and bloodshed may happen tomorrow.”

The bishop said that those who opposed the new constitution believed it should be a document that fosters national unity, not the sectarian interests of one political-religious party.  The document was “dividing the society into Islamists and non-Islamists (moderate Muslims and Christians),” the bishop warned.

Ten provinces, including Cairo and Alexandria voted on 15 December and 17 rural provinces are scheduled to vote on 22 December. “It is heart-breaking to see Egyptians against Egyptians,” Dr. Anis said. “We don’t want to see Egypt in a civil war.”

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop warns of civil war as Egypt heads to the polls: Anglican Ink, December 14, 2012. December 15, 2012

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Tahir Square, Cairo

The political battle between Islamists and moderates may push Egypt into civil war, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis has warned.

In a pastoral letter released the day before first vote on a national referendum to ratify a constitution drawn up by the Islamist-dominated parliament, Dr. Anis writes the democratic hopes that lay behind the “Arab Spring”, the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, have faded away.

“I cannot tell you how much I am heavy-hearted because of what is going on in my beloved country Egypt. Many Egyptians were expecting that after the 25 January Revolution in 2011 there would be no exclusion for any citizen or groups because of their political or religious stance. Sadly, we are still groaning for this equality,” the bishop wrote on 14 Dec 2012.

In his letter, Dr. Anis described the background to the new constitution, noting it had been crafted by Islamists with little meaningful input from Christians, moderate Muslims or secularists. The lack of consultation spelled troubled, he warned.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Pray for Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2012 p 6 December 7, 2012

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The Bishop of Egypt has issued a call to prayer for his embattled country after President Mohammad Mursi issued a decree widening the powers of the president and blocking his actions from judicial review by the courts.  More than 500 people have been injured in clashes between police and protestors angered by the seizure of absolute power by the Muslim Brotherhood government.

Opposition leaders and representatives from the Egypt’s Christian minority have also walked out of talks on drafting a new constitution after the Muslim Brotherhood dominated committee announced that Sharia law would be the basis of Egyptian law.  The Egyptian state news service reported President Mursi had met with Pope Theodore (Tawadros) II on 21 Nov where the president “reiterated his rejection of any kind of discrimination against any Egyptian and underlined the necessity to reach consensus on the constitution.”

However, on 24 Nov 2012 Bishop Mouneer Anis wrote there was “agitation within Egypt” after the president issued a decree saying “his decisions are ‘final and unchallengeable by any individual or body until a new constitution has been ratified and a new parliament has been elected.’ The Supreme Judicial Council described the declaration as ‘an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings’.”.

The bishop added the larger political situation was unsettled also as “the churches in Egypt alongside some liberal parties, withdrew their representatives in the committee responsible for writing the new constitution. This was an act of protest, because the majority of the committee are Islamists who want to impose their own views in the constitution. As we dream for real democracy, it was my hope, with many other Egyptians, to have a constitution that is inclusive of all Egyptians.”

The bishop urged Christians to pray for Egypt as “almost two years since the start of the revolution, and we are still longing for stability, democracy, and the opportunity to rebuild Egypt.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Egypt’s parliament endorses Sharia law: Anglican Ink, November 29, 2012 November 29, 2012

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President Mohammad Mursi of Egypt

Egypt’s Constituent Assembly has endorsed Article 2 of the country’s proposed constitution making Sharia law the basis for the country’s civil legal code.

On 29 Nov 2012 members of the Egyptian parliament began voting on each of the 234 article proposed by a constitutional committee chartered by President Mohammad Mursi. However, representatives of Egypt’s Christian communities and the opposition walked out of the talks last week after the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated drafting committee refused to compromise over Sharia law.

The Egyptian Independent reported there was uncertainty until the start of voting as to whether a quorum would be reached.  The 100-member chamber requires 67 members to be present to vote on the constitution and 22-members had announced they would boycott the proceedings.  However, the ruling party was able to call upon reserve members of Parliament, elected as alternates at the last election, to fill seats deemed to have been vacated.  At the start of the vote on Thursday afternoon 85 members answered the roll call.

Article 2, Sharia Law, which states that “the principles of the Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation,” remains unchanged from the 1971 constitution. However a new clause, Article 221 states that these principles are to be deduced from its fundamental rules and its Sunni sources.  The constitution also gives religious scholars at the Al-Azhar University the right to consult on the interpretation of Sharia law and its relation to the civil code.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Egypt’s Christians must stick together, new pope tells Anglicans: Anglican Ink, November 7, 2012 November 7, 2012

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Pope Tawadros II and Dr. Mouneer Anis

Christians in Egypt must put their denominational differences to one side and work together towards transforming Egyptian society, the newly elected Patriarch of Alexandria has told Bishop Mouneer Anis, the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

In a 7 November 2012 letter Dr. Anis told Anglican Ink that he met with the newly elected pope, who will assume the name Pope Tawadros II upon his enthronement on 18 Nov at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.

The meeting with the new leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church at St Bishoy’s Monastery in Wadi Natroun was a joyful occasion Dr. Anis wrote. Tawadros told the Middle East and North Africa’s Anglican leader “it is important that we have a strong and cordial relationship with each other” and that the Orthodox and Anglicans pray for each other so that they fulfill God’s purposes for their ministry.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Democracy not enough, Bishop Nazir Ali warns: Anglican Ink, October 30, 2012 October 30, 2012

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The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali

Democracy can kill a society unless it is tempered with a respect for human rights and equality, the former Bishop of Rochester told a London audience last week in a forum devoted to “Christianity at a Crossroads in the Middle East.”

Speaking at All Souls Langham Place on 25 October 2012 at an event sponsored by the Middle Eastern Christian satellite television broadcaster SAT-7, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali warned “democracy can mean the tyranny of the majority.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican-Muslim call to ban blasphemy: The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 2. October 2, 2012

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Four Anglican bishops from North Africa and Middle East have joined Muslim leaders in Egypt in writing to U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon urging the adoption of an international declaration against religious defamation.

On 16 the Egyptian State Information service reported the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyeb had written to the U.N. leader urging the adoption of an anti-blasphemy resolution that would criminalize insults to Islam and to its prophet, Muhammad.  The government also reported that the Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis had issued a similar call to the U.N. to ban blasphemy.

On 15 Sept 2012 Bishops Anis of Egypt, Michael Lewis of Cyprus and the Gulf,  Bill Musk of North Africa and Grant LeMarquand of the Horn of Africa urged the U.N. to prohibit actions and language that denigrated all religious faiths.

In “view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide, we hereby suggest that an international declaration be negotiated that outlaws the intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith.”

They said such a declaration would not be a violation of the right of free speech, but would encourage people to be “responsible and self-restraining in expressing or promoting offensive or malicious opinions with regard to the religions of the world.”

The bishops said their aim in offering this suggestion was to build peaceful relations amongst the world’s religions and prevent “violence that may easily lead to wars between nations and conflicts between people from different cultural or philosophical backgrounds or followers of different faiths,” the bishops said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Egyptian bishop backs blasphemy ban: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 5. September 24, 2012

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Bishop Mouneer Anis

The Government of Egypt reports the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, has written to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon endorsing the call made by Islamic member states to ban blasphemy. The government statement comes as part of the Muslim Brotherhood government’s media response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo by Muslim militants last week ostensibly in response to a YouTube video that defamed Mohammad.

In a statement released on 16 Sept 2012, the Egyptian State Information Service said Dr. Anis had written to the U.N. chief the previous day urging him to “issue a declaration that prohibits blasphemy.”

The Egyptian government said that in his letter, Dr. Anis said a ban on blasphemy would “not run counter to freedom of speech, but it prevents using this right to insult religious sanctities. ‘We believe that mutual respect is the only way for peaceful coexistence’.”

The Church of England Newspaper has not been able to confirm with Dr. Anis or the Diocese of Egypt the veracity of the state information service’s claim, or whether Dr. Anis’ letter was an endorsement of the resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on 19 Dec 2011 condemning the stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of people based on their religion, and urging countries to take effective steps “to address and combat such incidents.”

Similar resolutions had been brought to the U.N. each year since 1999 by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – a 56 member block of Muslim nation-states, but had been opposed by Western states.

However, in 2011 the language of the resolution was changed with language condemning the “defamation” of religion dropped and a clause inserted that reaffirmed “the positive role that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can play in strengthening democracy and combating religious intolerance.”

The amended resolution received the backing of the U.S. and U.K. and the E.U., though Poland’s ambassador questioned whether this resolution favored one religion over others. After the vote, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the best way to treat offensive speech is by people either ignoring it or combating it with good arguments and good speech that overwhelms it.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican bishops call for U.N. ban on blasphemy: Anglican Ink, September 17, 2012 September 18, 2012

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Bishop Mouneer Anis

Four North African and Middle Eastern Anglican bishops have written to U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon urging the adoption of an international declaration against religious defamation.

Bishops Mouneer Anis of Egypt, Michael Lewis of Cyprus and the Gulf and assistant Bishops Bill Musk of North Africa and Grant LeMarquand of the Horn of Africa wrote to the U.N. leader on 15 Sept 2012 following the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and consulate in Benghazi on 11 Sept.  In the days that followed mobs demonstrated outside American diplomatic posts across the Middle East and attacked U.S., German and British embassies in Tunis and Khartoum, ostensibly in response to a Youtube video that attacked Mohammad.

The bishops wrote that in “view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide, we hereby suggest that an international declaration be negotiated that outlaws the intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Church leaders urge Egypt’s new president to support religious tolerance: The Church of England Newspaper, September 2, 2012 p 6. September 6, 2012

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The sacking of the country’s top generals puts an end to 52 years of military rule and restores the rule of law to Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi told a gathering of Christian leaders this week, the Bishop of Egypt Dr. Mouneer Anis writes.

On 22 August, Dr. Anis along with 12 other bishops and ministers representing Egypt’s  Coptic Orthodox Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant Churches met for two hours at the presidential palace with the new president.

“I, and all my colleagues, appreciated the fact that the President called us twice in less than two months to talk and listen to us. This never happened in the last 30 years,” Dr. Anis said.

“The President shared with us the reasons behind his recent decisions to dismiss the military chiefs and the cancelling of the constitutional declarations they made. By these decisions the President put an end to the military ruling of the country which started since 1952. He also shared his hopes that the new Constitution would represent the hopes and views of all Egyptian regardless of their religion, ethnic background and political views. This will guarantee the support of the vast majority of people to the new constitution,” the bishop reported.

Asked to share with him the concerns of Egypt’s Christian minority, the church leaders urged the president to clamp down on sectarian violence.  “Ignorance and wrong teaching are behind such congestion,” they told the president and urged him to support the “sound and moderate religious teaching of Islam as taught by Al Azhar.”

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood before his run for office, President Morsi has supported the introduction of Shari’a law in Egypt. At a 13 May rally broadcast by Misr-25 TV, he told supporters the Koran would be the true constitution of Egypt.

“Above all – Allah is our goal… The shari’a, then the shari’a, and finally, the shari’a. This nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic shari’a. I take an oath before Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution]… Allah willing, the text will truly reflect [the shari'a], as will be agreed upon by the Egyptian people, by the Islamic scholars, and by legal and constitutional experts,” he proclaimed.

The Christian leaders urged the president to improve the quality of Egypt’s schools to “care for the education of the new generations so that they become more tolerant and good citizens. We suggested that common values should be taught in schools,” Dr Anis said.

They also asked the president to ensure non-partisan policy and that the security services apply the “rule of law on everyone, especially when sectarian clashes” as well as take steps to improve public order across the country.

“We told the President that we are aware that he received a heavy responsibility at a very difficult time in Egypt’s history and we all need to be patient and hard-working in order to see the desired fruits,” the bishop reported, adding the president “assured us that he is working to achieve the dream of Egypt: to be a democratic and modern country where the rights of citizenship and the constitution are held up high.”

“In the end, we came out of the meeting very encouraged and determined to do our best in order to see the Egypt that we dream of,” said Dr. Anis.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Christians afraid in Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2012 p 6. July 5, 2012

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Dr. Mouneer Anis

The Anglican Church in Egypt accepts the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Dr. Mohammed Mursi as president, but prays that he will honour his pledge to abide by the country’s secular constitution.

In a statement given to The Church of England Newspaper on 24 June 2012, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis said Christians are “praying for Mursi, and we hope that he will fulfill his promises.”

On 24 June the head of the Higher Presidential Election Commission, Farouq Sultan, said Dr. Mursi had won 13,230,131 votes (51.73 per cent) former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s 12,347,380.

In a nationally televised speech, the new president said: “Today I am a president for all Egyptians, wherever they may be.”

“I call on you, great people of Egypt,” he said, “to strengthen our national unity.”

The uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak will carry on “until all the objectives of the revolution are achieved and together we will complete this march. The people have been patient long enough,” Dr. Mursi said.

Dr. Anis noted that Dr. Mursi had “promised to be a president for all Egyptians, to appoint a prime minister who is not from the Muslim Brotherhood, and moreover he promised to appoint a Christian vice-president.”

“He made these promises to calm the widespread anxiety of the moderate Muslims and the Christians, who were hoping for a secular government. It is worth mentioning that over the last eight months, the Muslim Brotherhood has lost a lot of support because when they became the biggest party in the Egyptian parliament, they tried to dominate the committee which was responsible for writing the constitution. In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood promised that they would not nominate a presidential candidate; however they changed their mind and nominated Mursi. They also did not give any attention over the last year to the hardships of the Christians in Egypt. All of these reasons were behind the narrow margin in today’s election results,” the bishop said.

The “fear now” is the new president will not honour his promises, the bishop said.  “If Egypt became an Islamic state, this will mean that Christians will be marginalized” and “some writers express their fears that if the Muslim Brotherhood gained control of Egypt, they will stay in power for more than 100 years.”

“The High Military Council, being aware of this anxiety, took several decisions last week to limit the authority of the incoming president, and to ensure that Egypt stays as a secular state,” the bishop said.

“I am aware that some Western governments are critical of these decisions; however we see them as important measures to guarantee a secular state,” Dr. Anis said, noting the church “will continue to speak out if there is any deviation in our democratic journey. We trust in God and His promises in the middle of this uncertainty and anxiety. He promised that the gates of Hades will never overcome His church. Please pray for our beloved country Egypt.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 44 (One Year Anniversary) : Anglican TV, June 29, 2012 June 29, 2012

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In this week’s Anglican Unscripted Kevin and George discuss the Arab Apocalypse and the effects on the Anglican Church in Egypt. Also, the two June Birthday boys discuss General Convention and the illogical musings of Rowan Williams. Alan Haley delves into the mess we call the Supreme Court and special guest Bishop Dan Martins gives us a sneak peak on GC2012. #AU44

Pray for conversion of the Middle East, Jerusalem conference urges: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012 p 6. June 25, 2012

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The Altar of Christ Church, Jerusalem

A conference of Middle Eastern Christians and Messianic Jews meeting in Jerusalem has pledged to work and pray for  the conversion of the Middle East through building the “kingdom of God” in the Middle East and fostering peace and harmony amongst Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Meeting from 7-12 May 2012 at Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem with a grant of support from the Israel Trust of the Anglican Church – a ministry of the CMJ — the “At the Crossroads” conference brought together more than seventy delegates from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Armenia, Turkey, Europe and North America with worship and presentations in Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Hebrew and English.

While the bulk of the conference was closed due to security concerns over Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) protests, two talks were opened to the public.

The Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White and Pastor Ali Pektash spoke to the power of conversion and reconciliation.   Pastor Pektash shared his conversion story also, stating that he had been a Muslim and while on pilgrimage to Mecca he had a dream where Jesus spoke to him – sparking his conversion to Christianity and a road that led to the ordained ministry.

The second public address was given by Taysir Abu Saada, author of Once an Arafat Man, who spoke to the power of Christ to reconcile enemies.  The love of God, he told the conference, allowed believers to rake risks crossing ethnic, political and religious divides “to work together to expand God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in this troubled and unstable region,” a statement from the conference reported.

Delegates adopted a six point statement that sought to evangelize the region, work towards piece between Christians, Muslims and Jews, to protect and advocate for persecuted Christian groups, to foster communications amongst the churches, and to “proclaim that ‘Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance’ will indeed become a blessing in the midst of the earth.”

“It is all too easy for Christians in the Middle East to become ghettoized due to their minority status and the many ethnic and political divisions,” one conference organizer noted in an email to The Church of England Newspaper.

“Consequently we often fail to see how God is working in our midst. Our focus must extend beyond these conflicts and only the survival of existing Christian communities. Without ignoring the suffering and injustice in so many parts of our region, we should focus on the call of Jesus to expand God’s sovereignty by making disciples, recognizing the crucial role Jewish believers in Israel have in the Great Commission to bless their neighbors with the Good News,” the organizer said.

“ And equally so, the followers of Jesus in the surrounding nations have a unique role in helping Israel become part of the blessing that God intends for this region,” he added.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 34: Anglican TV March 27, 2012 March 29, 2012

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From Lenten messages, nukes, strange Deans and strange Canons your hosts Kevin and George spare no news. Peter Ould reveals the death of the Anglican Covenant and Alan Haley talks about the path to the supreme court. Don’t miss the interview with Bishop Mouneer Anis and our out takes after the credits.

Anarchy fears for Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2012 p 8. February 23, 2012

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Bishop Mouneer Anis

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The promises of the Arab Spring have failed to flower, the Bishop of Egypt reports.

In a 6 February 2012 letter to the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association Dr. Mouneer Anis reports that his country is “is undergoing a very, very difficult time. It looks as if the country is experiencing labor pains which may end up by the birth of a new baby, a new democratic Egypt. But it could also be the pains prior to a stillbirth, or an abortion.”

The latest round of violence follows the deaths of spectators at a football game in Port Said on 1 Feb.  Following a game between the Al-Masry home team and the visiting Al-Ahly club from Cairo, supporters of Al-Masry attacked fans from Cairo.  The Ministry of Health reported that 74 people were killed in the fighting and 400 were injured.

The deaths sparked protests in Cairo and a Feb 3 march on the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for the police who have been blamed for allowing the riot to escalate into a massacre.  Protestors battled with the police, who dispersed the crowd with tear gas.  Riots also erupted in Alexandria and Suez, where 3 people died after a mob ransacked the main police station.

Bishop Anis wrote that it was “very difficult to understand why” the Port Said riot took place.  “Many people believe that this massacre was an arranged by the old regime. I can hardly imagine that this is my beloved country, Egypt.”

“This very sad massacre provoked anger all over Egypt which led to widespread demonstrations and violence in several provinces. These violent demonstrations led to more killing and injuries. It is said that more than 2,500 were injured in this last week alone. In addition to this, a government building was set on fire and unknown persons detonated the natural gas pipeline in Sinai for the 12th time in the last year,” the bishop wrote.

The government has formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the riot, but the bishop is not sanguine as to its outcome, noting that an investigation into anti-Christian riots last year in Maspero that led to a massacre have “revealed nothing and brought no one to justice.”

Dr. Anis reported that “some political parties and students from different universities are now calling for civil disobedience for three days starting on the 11th of February 2012. They are calling for the transfer of government from the Military Council to a civil one. We as a church have decided that we will keep our churches open for prayer during these days. We pray that it will pass without violence.”

Egypt was at a crossroads, he said, with the “major challenge” facing the country being the “writing of the new constitution.”

“Who will be involved in this? Is it a group of like minded people or a group of Egyptians representing the entire spectrum of thoughts? Will it respect the United Nations declaration of Human Rights, or not?” he asked.

“Please join us in prayer for Egypt, for the stability of the country, for those who will write the new constitution, for safety and protection for all, and for the unity of the church,” Dr. Anis said.

Archbishop returns from private tour of Israel: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2012 p 6. February 17, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury met with Anglican, Muslim, Druse and Jewish leaders last week during a private tour of Israel and the West Bank, returning on Feb 2 in time for the start of General Synod.

The Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani reports that Dr. Williams met with the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar in Jerusalem, Muslim and Druse leaders at St Margaret’s Guest House in Nazareth, and the heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem.  Dr. Williams and his party also toured Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Dr. Williams’ tour demonstrated the “importance of constructive dialogue and co-existence between all religions,” the diocese said, as well as the need to “consolidate the peace process between the people of this region.”

The archbishop and his party pilgrims also visited St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the village of Zababida in the northern West Bank and met with the mayor and the governor of Jenin.

Egyptian unrest causing Christian exodus, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2011 p 6. November 25, 2011

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Bishop Mouneer Anis

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Four days of protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have left an estimated 33 dead and 1750 injured as demonstrators call for an end to military rule in Egypt.  Crowds estimated at over 100,000 have gathered in the central Cairo square, scene of the protests that brought down the government of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

Television footage of the demonstrations show protestors hurling fire bombs and paving stones at police, who have responded with tear gas and batons to clear the square.  On 21 Nov 2011, Egypt’s civilian cabinet offered its resignation to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in protest to the army crackdown.

The bloodshed comes only a week before Egypt’s parliamentary elections are set to begin. Reuters has reported that while the army stated the riots would not postpone the elections, the unrest could deter voters from going to the polls in Cairo.

The Cairo newspaper al-Masry al-Youm reported on Monday that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had met with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and have agreed to speed up the process towards civilian rule.  The Muslim Brotherhood urged protesters to show restraint, and said it would not participate in the demonstrations. However, other Islamist groups have stated that they will join democracy activists and Copts in the protests against military rule.

The Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis has asked for prayer for his country.  In a 16 Nov 2011 letter sent to the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association in Britain – before the latest riots – Dr. Anis wrote the unrest had many causes.

“Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Moroccans, Yemini, and

Bahrainis are rising up, calling for freedom, transparency and democracy. Many of these people of the Middle East have suffered under oppressive and corrupt governments. They feel that the time has come to determine their own destiny.”

“On one hand, this is very hopeful and encouraging,” the bishop wrote. But “on the other hand, this brings concern, apprehension and even fear. There are those who rode the waves of these uprisings and have called for Islamic (not secular, nondemocratic) governments.”

“Many moderate Muslims and Christians are concerned because they see the examples of Islamic states like Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.”

He added that almost 60 per cent of the population of the Middle East is less than 30 years of age. “The problem of unemployment, the rise in the cost of food, and the lack of good education hits them hard. This is a major reason for these uprisings.”

Dr. Anis added that in the “last ten months we also experienced a rise in fanaticism. This was manifested in demolishing and burning of churches, as well as protesting for the appointment of a Christian local governor. Egyptian Christians, overcoming the barrier of fear in which they lived for so many years, are now bold to demonstrate against injustice. As a result of this the clashes at Maspero happened and resulted in the death of 27 and over 318 injured.”

The unrest had also led to many Christians leaving Egypt, Palestine and Iraq for the West.  “I cannot imagine the Middle East, where Jesus lived and walked, being without Christians. It would never be the same. The future can be dim, but it can also carry hope for the church.”

“We trust that God is in charge and we are in His hands. His promise is that ‘the gates of hell will never overcome’ His Church,” Dr. Anis said.

Bishops’ call to prayer for Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21 2011 p 6. October 26, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for an investigation into the killing of 24 Christians by the Egyptian security services during a pro-democracy march in Cairo last week.

On 18 October Dr Rowan Williams asked the Foreign Office to press the Egyptian government to ensure the review would be impartial and there would be a “proper distance of that inquiry from the military establishment.”

Government indifference was exacerbating the crisis, he said, telling the peers there had been a “prolonged failure by the security forces to guarantee the safety of Christian personnel and property” in Egypt.

Foreign Office minister Lord Howell responded that Dr Williams was correct as there was “recent evidence of a rising tide of extremism in the clashes that have occurred,” adding that “I can only reassure you that the dialogue continues, the pressure is on.”

In a letter sent to The Church of England Newspaper and other supporters on 11 October, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis said Christians held a three-day fast last week in solidarity with those killed on 9 October 2011.

“It is now clear,” Dr Anis wrote, “that the demonstrations started by the Christians were peaceful.

“Some Muslims joined in the demonstrations in support of the rights of the Christians. But, unidentified persons were able to infiltrate the demonstrations aiming to make these demonstrations violent. They gave a false impression that Christians were violent and they were the ones who attacked the army soldiers. In response, the army fired against the demonstrators and used their tanks to run over some of them. The price was the death of 24 Christians and the injury of over 318 Christians and Muslims.”

The Bishop said the demonstrations began as a “reaction to the burning of the newly built church of Mari Nab” near Aswan by “Muslim fundamentalists” who set fire to the church “after Friday prayers.” The police declined to stop the arson attacks, he said.

Egypt’s Christian and Muslim leaders held an emergency meeting last week under the presidency of the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el Tayyib, and adopted a joint statement condemning the violence.

The interfaith council, the Beit el Aila – House of the Family – called for the government to deal with the root causes of “sectarian incidents”, and not seek “superficial and temporary reconciliations.”

They also asked the government fulfil its promise to permit the building of churches and to “investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring to justice those criminals who were involved directly or indirectly … delay will only lead to a repetition of these incidents.”

Dr Anis added he was heartened by the goodwill of many Muslims towards Egypt’s Christians and thanked those who spoke out against their oppression. He asked Anglicans across their communion to pray for Egypt – for Christians and Muslims – and for peace.

Jerusalem residency row ends: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 30, 2011 p 6. October 1, 2011

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Bishop Suheil Dawani

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Israel’s Ministry of the Interior has granted a residency permit for the Bishop in Jerusalem allowing the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani to live in Jerusalem. In an email to supporters, the bishop reported that on 26 September the Ministry approved his permit, ending over a year’s bureaucratic obfuscation and delay.

In August 2010, the Ministry declined to renew the bishop and his family’s residency papers, claiming the bishop had been engaged in fraudulent land deals on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Bishop Dawani and his family were ordered to leave the country, “immediately.”

The bishop denied the allegations, and after the Ministry declined to respond to the bishop’s letters, his lawyers initiated legal action in February, 2011.

International and domestic political pressure was quickly brought to bear. On 6 April, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement saying they “strongly support the religious freedom rights” of Bishop Dawani, and were “deeply concerned by the precedent of the attempt to deny residency in Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities to a leader of one of the Churches of this Holy City.”

On 28 March, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stated the British government was “very concerned” by the revocation of Bishop Dawani’s residency permit, adding that Foreign Secretary William Hague had “raised this with the Prime Minister of Israel.” Private representations had also been made on the bishop’s behalf by the US government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other Anglican leaders with the Prime Minister’s office.

No reason has been given for the government’s change of mind, the bishop reported. But he did want “to thank all of you, my friends and colleagues throughout the Anglican Episcopal Communion and the worldwide Christian community, for your continued support throughout this time. It has been deeply appreciated and most encouraging knowing that we have been kept in your thoughts and prayers as we awaited this most heartening outcome.”

Diplomatic stand-off over the site of Jesus’ baptism: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 9, 2011 p 9. September 8, 2011

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Jordan River between the Israeli and Jordanian sites

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Israel was guilty of falsifying history and breaking international law, Jordan’s tourism ministry has declared, after it formally re-opened to pilgrims the Qasr al-Yahoud—the traditional site of Christ’s baptism on the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Closed following the 1967 Six Day War, the Qasr al-Yahoud is located in a restricted military area in Israel and is directly across from the al-Maghtas (Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan), the site Jordan claims is the true place of Christ’s baptism.

The two sites have long played host to pilgrims, but the closure of Qasr al-Yahoud since 1967 has given the Jordanian site a leg up in the battle for Christian tourist cash.  In March 2010 media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s two daughters were baptized at the al-Maghtas site in a service attended by Jordan’s Queen Rania.

The ceremony sparked controversy last week after Wendy Murdoch told Vogue magazine that former Prime Minister Tony Blair was one of the children’s godfathers and had participated in the ceremony.  An 18-page photo spread in Hello! magazine of the service pictured film stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman as godparents, but omitted mention of the former prime minister.

In 2000 the Qasr al-Yahoud was opened by Israeli to pilgrims who could visit the shrine under military escort.  The outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in 2001 closed the shrine, which was only re-opened for religious ceremonies during the Orthodox Epiphany, the Catholic Annunciation and the Orthodox Easter. Last September however, the site was opened to visitors and the area cleared of land mines and barbed wire.

According to a translation made by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) of the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yawm, on July 27, 2011, the Jordanian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh filed a complaint with the Vatican that Israel had “violated international law and charters by establishing the place called Qasr al-Yahoud and a baptismal site [there], and by holding an [inauguration] ceremony attended by [representatives of] several [Christian] religious streams, in order to provoke Jordan and mislead the world regarding the location of the real baptismal site, which is on Jordanian soil.”

Dr. Abu Ghazaleh added that “grave violation is a provocation [both] to Jordan and to the Vatican, represented by Pope Benedict XVI, which recognizes that the site of Christ’s baptism is on the Jordanian side of the river. It is also a violation of international law because… the [Israeli] site was established on land that the international charters recognize as being under occupation… This is one of an entire series of grave violations of the international laws, charters, and principles, and an attempt to falsify the facts of human history.”

The dispute prompted a meeting between Jordanian officials and Israeli army officers at the midpoint of the King Hussein Bridge that links the two countries, but no accord was reached.

On July 30 the Jordanian interior ministry convened a meeting of government officials, MPs and Christian leaders to defend its claim to possession of the true baptismal site.  The meeting generated a statement which said: “The archeological findings, and all testimony, prove that the [authentic] baptismal site is on the east [bank]. It is important to distinguish the baptism of Christ from the baptism [of other Christians], which can take place anywhere. From a historical and religious perspective, the [real] spot where Christ was baptized is on the east [bank] of the river and is called al-Maghtas, [and is] in Jordan.”

Anglican Archdeacon Luay Haddad told the Khabarjo.net website: “For the Christians, this issue is a very important one, and the reaction should be addressed [to people] both inside and outside [Jordan]. It is not enough to issue a communiqué stating that the site of Christ’s baptism is on the east [bank], because everybody [already] acknowledges this fact. We must inform our brothers west of the river that we remain loyal to the [Jordanian] site…

“The opening of the site on the west [bank] comes at an unsuitable time, and contains an element of provocation. [The authenticity of the Jordanian site] is firmly established in the eyes of the church and from the perspective of archeology, religion and tourism. The church documents clearly confirm this, and it is acknowledged by the church’s supreme authorities… It is also supported by the New Testament and by testimonies of the fathers of the early church.”

The Anglican Church believed the opening of the Israeli site was “a grave mistake in terms of history and religion.”   He called on Christians to “disregard Israel’s plans whose transparent [goal]… is to spark a conflagration and create new confusion in the region.”

“We hope that all the Christians, especially those in the Holy Land, will be wary of these dubious [Israeli] plans, will take a clear stand against this [new baptismal] site, and will announce that the site on the east [bank] is the only [authentic] site of Christ’s baptism.”

However the archdeacon’s claims appear to be stronger than history would allow, as both sides can show ample historic evidence for their claims.  The Vatican Information Service noted that while Pope Benedict XVI visited the al-Maghtas in 2009, he had expressed no opinion on the dispute between the two claimants.

In the sixth century the Emperor Anastasias order a basilica to be built to mark the spot and St John’s Monastery was constructed on the west bank.  The east bank of the river has also yielded Byzantine ecclesial ruins tied to Jesus’ baptism, but the historical record remains unclear.

The sixth-century pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza (Intinerarium 12.4) reported that “Not very far from the Jordan where the Lord was baptized there is the monastery of St John.”  The actual spot of the baptism was marked by a votive column crowned by a metallic cross, planted in the middle of the river between the two banks.

However, this report is also suspect as The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) notes that Antoninus was “the last writer who saw Palestine before the Moslem conquest. Although he covered in his travels nearly the same extensive territory as the Spanish nun, [Egeria] his work contains but few details not found in other writers; it is, moreover, marred by gross errors and by fabulous tales which betray the most naive credulity.”

Qaddafi ousted: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 24, 2011 August 24, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Two days after rebel troops breached the defense perimeter around Tripoli, the situation in the Libyan capital remains uncertain, with Christ the King Anglican Church reporting attacks against the city’s Catholic Church and sporadic violence.

The four decade rule of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi appears to have come to an end on Aug 21 after rebel troops entered the city after encountering what was reported as only light resistance from the Khamis brigade commanded by one of Qaddafi’s sons.

Col. Qaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, and rebel troops have surrounded the Bab al-Azizya—the presidential compound.  Western television networks have broadcast anti-Qaddafi celebrations in the city’s Green Square, and on Aug 22 the rebel coalition’s Transitional National Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil reported that two of the Libyan leader’s sons, including heir-apparent Saif al-Islam had been captured.

However, on Aug 23 Saif al-Islam surprised foreign journalists when he visited their hotel in the heart of the city, disputing claims he was a prisoner of the rebels.  The regime continues to control the national television network and pro-Qaddafi military units remained in control of pockets of the city.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, saying his government would “continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

On Aug 22, Prime Minister David Cameron stated “the latest information is that the vast majority of Tripoli is now controlled by free Libyan fighters, although fighting continues – and some of it is extremely fierce.”

Qaddafi’s “regime is falling apart and in full retreat,” Mr. Cameron said, adding “our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people, which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”

While Libya appears to be free of the Qaddafi regime, foreign policy experts are not optimistic the new regime will be democratic or inclusive.   Jonathan Schanzer of Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracy predicted a “bigger battle” may be on the horizon.

“Qaddafi exploited tribal hatreds in Libya for four decades. He also robbed the country of any semblance of civil society. Now, after months of fighting, the country is awash with weapons. There should also be concerns about the ideology that will ultimately characterize the new Libya, when the guns have gone quiet. Qaddafi’s Green Book, a bizarre amalgam of socialism and Islam, was the ideology he imposed on Libya. Nobody there ever embraced it, but other ideologies were effectively banned. With Qaddafi’s ouster, we open Pandora’s Box,” Mr. Schanzer said.

In an email from the worn torn city to the Bishop of Egypt, the Rev. Hamdy Doud, an associate vicar of Christ the King Church in Tripoli, wrote: “At last, things are getting better” and internet communications have been restored.

“We praise the Lord for our safety here in Tripoli in such difficult situation,” Mr. Doud wrote.

“Now all people here are so glad of experiencing improvements and developments. But we still need to pray for the current transitional time to witness safe consequences of development. The Catholic Church was stolen by force last night, but we thank God that nobody was hurt. For the time being it is not safe to move around, and it will take us some time, but we are glad of having some relief,” he wrote.

The prime minister stated Britain was ready to assist with the transition to democracy.  “We have a strong mission already in Benghazi consisting of Foreign Office, military and aid specialists, and we will establish a British diplomatic presence in Tripoli as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.

“Six months ago this country took the difficult decision to commit our military to support the people of Libya,” Mr. Cameron said.

“I said at the time that this action was necessary, legal and right – and I still believe that today.

“It was necessary because Qaddafi was going to slaughter his own people – and that massacre of thousands of innocent people was averted.

“Legal, because we secured a Resolution from the United Nations, and have always acted according to that Resolution. “

“And right, because the Libyan people deserve to shape their own future, just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia are now doing,” the prime minister said.

Lord Carey challenges Cairo seminarians to evangelize Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, July 22, 2011 p 5.. July 26, 2011

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All Saints Cathedral, Cairo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey presided over graduation ceremonies last week for the Alexandria School of Theology.  Meeting at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Lord Carey awarded 27 B.Th. degrees and 3 diplomas in theology to the class of Egyptian and Sudanese seminarians.

The July 16 ceremony was the third commencement exercise for the six year old theological college, which holds classes in Alexandria and Cairo and draws students from across Egypt.

In his address, Lord Carey spoke of the challenges of bearing Christian witness in a majority Muslim country.  “How can you be orthodox but gracious?” he asked the congregation.

Citing Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery, he called on the new clergy and catechists to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel while tempering it with grace.  “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God,” the former archbishop said, citing William Carey’s maxim.

The college principal, the Rev Emad Mikhail encouraged the graduates to take an active role in shaping the new Egypt and not to be afraid of the change unfolding around them.  The Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis stressed the importance of Christian solidarity in their ministries and urged the new clergy to respect the country’s other Christian traditions, while the papal nuncio Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald paid tribute to the tenacity of students who continued their studies amidst the breakup of the Mubarak regime.

Egypt “is the place to do theology, and it doesn’t stop after graduation,” Archbishop Fitzgerald said.

Christian population in the Middle East rising: The Church of England Newspaper, July 15, 2011 p 8. July 18, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched an appeal to sustain the Christian communities in the Holy Land.

The Archbishop’s call comes amidst a sharp decline in the Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East over the course of the 20th Century. However, in recent years the Christian population of Israel has grown sharply, with the Pontifical Mission to Palestine reporting the return of Christian emigrants from abroad to the Holy Land.

In his address to the General Synod’s July 2011 Group of Sessions, Dr Rowan Williams said that he “returned from a visit to the Holy Land last year with a very, very strong sense that we had to do more to express our solidarity with the Christian communities there… We know our brothers and sisters there are suffering; and we don’t always ask ourselves often enough what our response needs to be.”

He asked Anglicans to support the financial appeal “with which we might assist projects of community development and work creation, especially among Palestinian Christians.”

A demographic study published in 1998 by the Oxford University Press entitled Christian Communities in the Arab Middle East noted that in 1914, Christians constituted 26.4 per cent of the total population in what is now Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, while by 1995 they represented 9.2 per cent of the population.

However, the decline has not been evenly spread. While Christians have fled from areas controlled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, in Israel their numbers have grown rapidly. The Statistical Abstract of Israel 2008 reports that Israel’s Christian population grew from 120,600 in 1995 to 151,600 in 2007, representing a growth rate of 25 per cent — a rate faster than the growth of the country’s Jewish population.

Dr Williams’ appeal comes ahead of a joint conference with the Archbishop of Westminster scheduled for 18/19 July at Lambeth Palace. “The rate of emigration from Christian populations in the Holy Land has been growing steadily for a long time” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an introductory video.

“People are leaving, Christians are leaving, and we want to say that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is important to its balance… not just its historical reality, but to its present and future viability” added Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

However, the Pontifical Mission to Palestine, an agency created by Pope Pius XII in April 1949 to coordinate all the Catholic aid activities in favour of the Palestinian refugees and victims after the War of 1948, reports that Christians are now returning.

The mission’s regional director Sami el-Yousef told EWTN News the number of Christians living in the Holy Land had stopped falling, and perhaps even increased slightly.

“In recent years I think we have not witnessed any waves of emigration out of the Holy Land,” Mr el-Yousef said. Some families that emigrated in past years have recently returned, he reported.

Fury over Dr. Williams’ Palestine remarks: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2011 p 6. July 6, 2011

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come under sharp criticism from Palestinian activists, who have accused Dr. Rowan Williams of being an ill-informed right-winger bent on “demonizing Islam” and supporting the Israeli government.

However, a spokesman for Dr. Williams tells The Church of England Newspaper that Kairos Palestine had improperly construed the archbishop’s remarks about the plight of Christians across the Middle East to be an endorsement of Israeli government policies.

In a June 14 interview with the BBC Radio 4 programme World At One, Dr. Williams noted that life for some Middle East Christians was “becoming unsustainable.”

There was a “hemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land,” the archbishop said, adding that the “fact that Bethlehem, a majority Christian city just a couple of decades ago, is now very definitely a place where Christians are a marginalized minority.”

“It’s not ethnic cleansing exactly because it’s been far less deliberate than that I think,” Dr. Williams said.

“What we’ve seen though is a kind of Newtonian passing on of energy or force from one body to another so that some Muslim populations in the West Bank, under pressure, move away from certain areas like Hebron, move into other areas like Bethlehem. And there’s nowhere much else for Christian populations to go except away from Palestine,” the archbishop told the BBC.

On June 18, Mr. Rifat Odeh Kassis, the coordinator for Kairos Palestine wrote to Dr. Williams stating his remarks on Muslim extremism as the “the greatest threat facing Christians in Palestine and the primary reason for our emigration” were “inaccurate and erroneous.”

He added the archbishop’s “statements about Bethlehem are particularly faulty and offensive especially when you say that the movement of Muslims into the Bethlehem area, where space is limited, is forcing Christians to leave.”

“Equally shocking,” Mr. Kassis said, was Dr. Williams’ silence on Israeli actions that Kairos Palestine believed were one of the “major reasons that push not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians.”

Kairos Palestine was disappointed that Dr. Williams did not speak with a “different voice than the one in mass media and other right wing political parties, which exploit our sufferings to fuel some Islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam.”

No stranger to the Middle East’s political fracas, Kairos Palestine was formed by a group of Palestinian clergy in 2004.  According to the Jerusalem-based think tank NGO Monitor, Kairos “advocates a supersessionist theology, exploits related themes to demonize Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, and ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed by Palestinians against Christians.”

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace told CEN Kairos’ concerns were overblown.   “This is partly a fall out from a misquote on the BBC website,” he said.

The spokesman noted that on June 14 the BBC’s website stated:  “Dr Rowan Williams said there was a ‘haemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land’ because of violent extremism, and in Bethlehem they were now a ‘marginalised minority’.”

The following day, the BBC rewrote the introduction to the story.  The introduction to the link to the interview now read: “Dr Rowan Williams said there was a ‘haemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land’, violent extremism driving Christians from Egypt, and in Bethlehem they were now a ‘marginalised minority’.”

First women priest ordained in the Middle East: The Church of England Newspaper, June 10, 2011 p 7. June 13, 2011

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The Rev. Catherine Dawkins, Bishop Michael Lewis, and the Rev. Nigel Dawkins at the June 5 ordination of Mrs. Dawkins to the priesthood at St. Christopher's Cathedral in Bahrain

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The first woman priest of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East was ordained this week at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Bahrain.

On June 5, the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis ordained the Rev. Catherine Mary Dawkins to the priesthood.  On January 15, 2010 Mrs. Dawkins was ordained a deacon by Bishop Lewis and she served her cure as deacon and assistant chaplain at Christ Church, Aden, with her husband, the Rev. Nigel Dawkins—chaplain at Aden.

At a meeting of the province’s house of bishops late last year, the bishops agreed to allow each diocese the local option of ordaining women priests.  Jerusalem, Iran and Egypt do not permit women priests, while Cyprus and the Gulf had given permission to officiate to women priests ordained outside of the diocese.

Mrs. Dawkins met her husband while she was training for the ministry in England, and came out to Aden two years ago after her marriage.  Last month the Dawkins accepted new posts in Dubai: the Rev Nigel will serve as senior chaplain at the Mission to Seafarers, while the Rev. Catherine will take up the post of chaplain at Christ Church in Jebel Ali.

The Dean of St. Christopher’s Cathedral, the Very Rev. Christopher Butt told the Gulf Daily News Mrs. Dawkins’ ordination held a special significance for the church in Bahrain.

“We are privileged to host this big occasion, not because it is just a Bahraini event but it holds significance for the whole of the region and this diocese, and it is a joy to be involved in this process,” Dean Butt said.

“It is a sign of recognition in the wider church that women have a final role in the ministry of the church and not a secondary. It is also recognition of the gifts and special insights that women bring into the ministry in a powerful way,” the dean said.

Christ Church Aden ‘holding on’ amidst Yemani civil war: The Church of England Newspaper, June 3, 2011 p 9. June 7, 2011

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Christ Church, Aden

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Heavy fighting in Yemen has not closed the Anglican Church in Aden, Bishop Michael Lewis reports.

Clashes between government forces and separatist tribesmen in the north and gunmen affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the south, coupled with pro-democracy riots across the country have left over 320 dead since the start of anti-government demonstrations in February.

On May 25 Reuters reported 40 people had been killed in the capital city of Sanaa in fighting between troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and followers of Sadiq al-Ahmar, the chief of Yemen’s powerful Hashed tribe, while government troops were also engaged in fierce fighting in the southern town of Zinjibar with members of AQAP.  The BBC has also reported that 50 pro-democracy demonstrators were killed and over one hundred arrested on May 30 in the southern city of Taiz.

Western embassies have evacuated all non-essential personnel from their embassies in the southern Arabian republic and last week Foreign Secretary William Hague urged President Saleh to stand down “as soon as possible.” “It is in the interest of his own country and his own interest now for there to a be a transition of power,” Mr. Hague told SkyNews.

In an email to The Church of England Newspaper, the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, the Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis said that despite the fighting, “the work continues at Christ Church Aden:” the former British garrison church built in 1863.

“During recent troubled weeks the chaplaincy’s Ras Morbat clinic, with its general medical and eye departments, has carried on offering its services, despite a reduction in numbers of patients because of the deteriorating security situation in the country,” the bishop said, adding that the church hospital’s staff “are committed to the work of Christ Church” and are “largely Yemeni and Muslim.” The fighting has left the church without a resident chaplain, however.

The chaplain of Aden, the Rev Nigel Dawkins, “had previously accepted appointment as Senior Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers, in the United Arab Emirates from 1 July. Until then he is managing the work from Dubai, while his wife, the Rev Catherine Dawkins, will continue to oversee the finances and fundraising activities of Christ Church,” the bishop said.

Bishop Lewis said the situation will be reviewed by the Council of Reference for Christ Church Aden, which is a mission project of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, which is scheduled to meet in London on June 2.

Jerusalem hearing for Bishop Dawani cancelled: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2011 p 8. May 30, 2011

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Bishop Suheil Dawani

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The May 18 court hearing to review the Israeli government’s refusal to renew the residency permit of the Bishop in Jerusalem has been postponed, following a motion by the Attorney General of Israel to move the case to the country’s Supreme Court.

Bishop Suheil Dawani reports the original hearing was to have been held in the Jerusalem District Court last week.  However, government prosecutors filed a motion for a change of venue.

In August 2010, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior declined to renew the bishop and his family’s residency papers.  The government claimed the bishop had been engaged in fraudulent land deals on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.   Bishop Dawani and his family were ordered to leave the country, “immediately.”

The bishop has denied the allegations, protesting his innocence.  After the Ministry of the Interior declined to respond to the bishop’s letters, his lawyers initiated legal action in February.

International and domestic political pressure has been brought to bear in support of the bishop.   On April 6, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, the umbrella organization for the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops of the Armenian Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches released a statement in support of Bishop Dawani.

The Heads of Churches said they “strongly support the religious freedom rights” of Bishop Dawani, adding they were “deeply concerned by the precedent of the attempt to deny residency in Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities to a leader of one of the Churches of this Holy City.”

In a written statement released on March 28, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stated the government was “very concerned” by the revocation of Bishop Dawani’s residency permit, adding that Foreign Secretary William Hague had “raised this with the Prime Minister of Israel.”

Private representations have also been made on the bishop’s behalf by the US government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other Anglican leaders with the Prime Minister’s office, but so far have had no effect on the dispute.

No date has yet been scheduled for the Supreme Court hearing.

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