WCC general secretary assures Coptic church of support in meeting with Pope Tawadros II
World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit met in Egypt on Sunday, 21 April, with Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, discussing post-revolution developments in Egypt, the situation of Christians in the Arab world and ways to strengthen Christian-Muslim relations.
The two leaders met at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Cario, site of attacks two weeks ago following a funeral for Christians killed in a northern Egyptian town only a few days earlier.
In his conversation with Tveit, Tawadros expressed his hopes for the future of his country. “Egypt is inherently moderate. It is natural as we all drink from the same river of Nile,” he said.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit and Pope Tawadros II
Tawadros noted that “amidst difficulties that the Coptic Church in Egypt faced in history, it is faith which has sustained Christians and their strength.” It is due to this strength, he said, that they will continue to work for peaceful co-existence among all religious communities in Egypt.
Coptic Christians constitute around 11 percent of Egypt’s 80-million population. In this context, Tawadros stressed that “Churches have to be a witness in Christ through blood, sweat and tears and work together with their Muslim brothers to address the trend of migration among Christians in Egypt.”
In response Tveit said, “We pray with you for justice and peace in your country. The dignity and welfare of all citizens in post-revolution Egypt is a shared hope of the global church.”
“We hear the experiences of Egyptian churches, and we have a great belief in the leadership of His Holiness Pope Tawadros to further dialogue between Christians and Muslims seeking peace and democracy,” he added.
Tveit called the theme of the upcoming WCC assembly, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” significant for the Egyptian churches, where Christians aspire to build a common future with peaceful co-existence among all communities. The assembly will take place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November this year.
During the meeting, Tveit introduced WCC's upcoming conference on “Christian Presence in the Middle East” to be held from 21 to 25 May in Beirut, Lebanon, gathering representatives of the Middle Eastern churches and ecumenical organizations.
While in Cairo, Tveit also visited the office of the Bishopric of Public, Ecumenical and Social Services (BLESS), a development wing of the Coptic church, where he learned about its projects in rural communities on issues of poverty, female genital mutilation and HIV and AIDS.
Tveit met with several representatives of the Coptic church and ecumenical organizations, including Bishop Anba Youannes, Dr Salwa Morcos, Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette and Fr Beshouy Abdelmalek, general secretary of the newly established Egyptian Council of Churches (ECC).
Tveit congratulated the national council, saying that creation of the ECC is a “sign of hope and faith for churches in Egypt working together in unity and being witnesses of Christ in difficult times.”