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Crisis deepens in Libya and Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, March 18, 2011 p 7. March 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.

Christ the King, Tripoli

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican flag remains flying in Tripoli, the Bishop of Egypt reports, in the midst of the revolution to oust Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

On March 13, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt reported that the Rev. Hamdy Doud, the assistant rector of Christ the King Church remained in Tripoli, caring for the church.

Two of the three clergy have been evacuated from Libya as have the Western expatriate members of the congregation, Bishop Anis reported.  However, a number of Anglican Africans remained in the city, unable to flee.

“It is my responsibility to keep the Christian presence here,” Fr. Hamdy told Bishop Anis, adding that he and the city’s “Roman Catholic priests are having a good time of fellowship in spite of the crisis in Libya.”

The Assistant Bishop for North Africa, the Rt. Rev. Bill Musk reported on March 2 “a desperate situation is forming and getting worse by the day on the Tunisia/Libya border.”

“An overwhelming number of people (at the moment mostly Tunisian and poor Egyptians) are fleeing Libya and turning up hungry and cold and traumatised on the border with Tunisia.

“The Tunisian army is there, the Red Crescent is there, and ACT [Association for Cooperation in Tunisia – a small Christian charity] is there. More international aid bodies are getting mobilised, but – even when they get functioning – they need local people on the spot to deliver the aid they are providing.”

St George’s Anglican Church in Tunis had sent a team to assist ACT in providing aid for refugees, the bishop said and were “cooking for up to 10,000 people at the border, which includes brothers from our Arabic-speaking congregation. Please pray for them.”

Dating from the Fifteenth century, the former Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary was given to the Anglican Diocese of Egypt by Col. Gaddafi in 2008.  Following the Sept. 1, 1969 revolution that brought the then 27-year-old Col. Gaddafi to power, the Christian churches of Libya, including the Anglican Church in Tripoli were confiscated.

Overtime the mercurial Libyan strongman would return properties to the Roman Catholic Church and in 2008 refurbished St Mary’s in the old city or medina of Tripoli and gave it to the diocese.

Meanwhile, the situation in Egypt was equally grim, Bishop Mouneer reported, with anti-Christian riots breaking out for the first time in a generation.

Writing from Cairo, the bishop reported there had been an attack on a Coptic Church south of Cairo and clashes between Copts and Muslims in Mokattam.  Christians were fleeing for fear of their lives, he said.

“The whole crisis started because of a Christian man was dating a Muslim woman for some time and when this became known, the Christian community asked this man to leave the village.  A fight within the family of the Muslim woman resulted in the death of two members of her family.  This stirred the anger of many Muslims to go to the church and demolish it.  This also initiated the clashes in Mokattam where 8 people died: 1 Muslim and 7 Christians.”

The bishop said that after the attack “many Christians demonstrated in front of the television building near Tahrir Square requesting the rebuilding of the church and guarantees for human rights for Christians.  The Egyptian Army decided to rebuild the church in the same site, in spite of resistance from some Muslims in the village,” while the new government released priest from prison who had been jailed for converting a Muslim to Christianity.

“Egypt has never seen such severe violence between Christians and Muslims in many years,” Bishop Mouneer said.  Yet not all support the Islamist fringe groups as “many Muslims have demonstrated side-by-side Christians in support of their rights.”

Bishop Mouneer expressed concern, however, over the “growth of Muslim groups who are now planning to form political parties in order to participate in the Parliamentary Elections.  Many moderate Muslims and Christians call for a time to allow moderate parties to establish themselves before having such elections.  If elections are done in haste, the Parliament will be overwhelmed by Islamic parties.”

The financial situation was also dire, he said.  The economy was “going down-hill because of the many demonstrations and the cessation of work in many factories and companies.  The stock market is still closed.  This has resulted in severe unemployment and subsequent poverty.  Last week, the Diocese helped 870 poor families with food packages,” the bishop said.

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, commented that Egypt’s Christians were “reeling from this barrage of assaults that are coming from all angles. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Egyptian revolution has made the country’s Christians even more vulnerable to attack,” he said.

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