Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, CEOSS General Director and President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, stressed the importance of the recommendations recently issued by the 27th Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which included "Cairo Document for Spreading Peace." He pointed out that CEOSS will adopt these recommendations through disseminating them among a number of international organizations around the world.
- Minister of Islamic Endowment: Countries that embrace pluralism, diversity and respecting the other are the most developed countries
- Minister of Cultural Affairs: Egypt is a country of diversity and pluralism, and the State guarantees this
- President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt: Egyptians are strengthened by national solidarity
Zaki mentioned the above during his speech at “Egypt is for all Egyptians” conference. CEOSS FID organized this conference, with the participation of nearly 350 political, executive and religious leaders, as well as a number of intellectuals, civil society activists, diplomats, and media professionals. Dr. Mohammad Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Islamic Endowment; Mr. Helmy El Namnam, Minister of Cultural Affairs; Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt and CEOSS General Director.
Some of the initiatives that CEOSS' Forum for Intercultural Dialogue (FID) adopts, through its various programs and activities, were presented at the beginning of the conference. Sheikh Syed Abdul Aziz, General Secretary of Egyptian Family House in Assuit, highlighted CEOSS’ great contribution in activating the role of Egyptian Family House in Assuit. The fruit of the cooperation between CEOSS and the Family House was a community-based initiative; where the committee of religious discourse consisting of 100 sheikhs, 60 priests, and 300 social workers were trained. In addition, 25 participants from every branch of the Egyptian Family House were trained on communication and acceptance of others and conflict resolution skills. Abdul Aziz and Priest Matta Shafiq worked together to establish “ Ma’an” (Together) Organization in Nekhila village in Assuit, achieving community peace in a community full of violence and extremism.
Rev. Ayman Sami, Priest of Sharabeya Evangelical Church in Cairo, presented a number of initiatives that were jointly implemented with the Directorate of Endowments in Sharabiya. These initiatives resulted into forming a “Peace Group” consisting of Christian and Muslim leaders that gather twice during Ramadan to share Iftar once in the church, and the other in a mosque, followed by a community dialogue about common issues.
Dr. Amira Twadharos, Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, also presented “Egyptian Peace Leaders” initiative, which aims to form a network of young people that have the ability to disseminate values of coexistence and acceptance of others.
Dr. Mohammed Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Islamic Endowments, confirmed that we have overcome formalities towards a mutual action to promote peace. Political experiences proved that countries that embrace pluralism, diversity and respecting the other are the most developed countries and vice versa. He pointed that we had to go beyond common interest towards the right of being different.
Gomaa referred to some of the recommendations that came out of the 27th Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which was held on March 11-12th ,2017 entitled: "The Role of Leaders and Decision Makers in the Dissemination of A Culture of Peace and Combating Terrorism and Challenges", which included the attached Cairo document for Spreading Peace.
Mr. Helmy El Namnam, Minister of Cultural Affairs, mentioned that he was thinking about such a conference, especially after the tragic events in Arish. These violent actions resulted in the fleeing of over 150 families to Ismailia and other cities.
El Namnam confirmed that Egypt is a country of diversity and pluralism, referring to World War I; when the Turkish Ottomans executed collective massacres of Armenians in 1916. Those Armenians could not find a resort but Egypt. During this period, Al Azhar issued an advisory opinion that condemns the Ottoman Mufti’s advisory opinion of killing the other based on their affiliation.
He expressed his gratification of the recommendations that came out of the International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs at the Ministry of Religious Endowments. He also expressed his contentment of Al Azhar Document of Coexistence, announced by the Grand Imam ten days ago, stressing that any intellectual in Egypt or any other Arab country wishes for such a document issued from an iconic religious institute like Al Azhar. The document states: “Any Arab Muslim or Christian as well as those of different loyalties have the right to live freely with dignity."
In his speech, he added that "the problem now is how to bring these ideas on ground; bearing in mind that the Egyptian community was left over many decades without attention, and at a point, the state pulled out from many roles and responsibilities. Residents of slums were left to Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups, Copts were left to the Church, the poor were left to God, and the rich were left to loot as they please. Therefore, the state should assume its role to attend to citizens, develop slums, and not to discriminate between citizens, regardless of their religion, sect, race, or economic status. Discrimination in the past was not only based on religion but also on economic status. The rich receive healthcare while the poor are left to die; the rich get education while the poor drop out of school.”
El Namnam concluded his speech confirming: “we should combat all aspects of discrimination; recognizing the existence despite their religion or ideology, respecting and acknowledging them as long as they do not violate the law. They must receive all economic, social and political rights as citizens, including the right to vote and to be nominated and elected.”
Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, CEOSS General Director and President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, commended the recommendations that came out of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs through its annual conference, and braught by the Minister of Islamic Endowments. He stressed that he will work with the Ministry of Islamic Endowments in coordination with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs to adopt these recommendations and activate them on ground; expressing the importance of spreading Egypt’s position towards peace locally and internationally.
In his speech, Zaki highlighted some important models:
- First, the model of co-existence in Egypt, which must be emphasized, maintained, and promoted. He said: "looking at the current situation of the region, Egypt is one of the best coexistence models despite the challenges and problems. After the tragic events of the Cathedral and Arish, I watched the State, civil society, intellectuals, politicians and media rising up together against them. In this context, we need to monitor what was mentioned in the media including statements of Muslim and Christian leaders as well as the position of political leaders. I believe it is an important turning point supporting this coexistence model. The civil society and the State’s reaction to Arish incidents was crucial; and here we must pay tribute to the Church, civil society, and the State’s role to support affected families as Egyptian families."
- Second, Zaki highlighted that the Egyptian state is clearly supporting citizenship and coexistence. He said: “an example of the positive models I witnessed is the Church building law, where the state restored all churches that were damaged after Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins during 2013 and others. In this context, we should carefully study and analyze the vocabulary used by political and religious leadership in Egypt because of their importance. The State is dealing professionally with sectarian incidents, in spite of recognizing the existence of extremists.” He stressed, "Egyptians are now moving towards national solidarity to set solutions for peace; we religious leaders in Egypt totally reject any foreign interference, and we reject this out of our conviction that we all, with our fellow Egyptians, have the same destiny."
Zaki concluded his speech that "the future requires a lot of efforts from us. We will work here and abroad with our partners such as Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Islamic Endowments, and civil society to strengthen this coexistence model, establish it on the ground, and deal with negative aspects with a solid approach and methodology, pushing forward a role model of co-existence."