Media CenterCRS Applauds Pope Francis’ Message of Peace and Solidarity During Visit to Egypt
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Catholic Relief Services
BALTIMORE, MD, April 28, 2017 -- As Pope Francis continues his visit with political and religious leaders in Egypt, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) stands with the Holy Father on the importance of inter-religious dialogue as a way to foster peaceful relationships between Christians and Muslims.
“This visit is an opportunity for Pope Francis to continue the outreach across the Christian and Muslim communities that began in May 2016, when he received at the Vatican the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University,” said Art Kirby, CRS’ country representative in Egypt.
“It is also a chance for the Holy Father to express his solidarity with the Christian community in Egypt, which was affected by the Palm Sunday bombings that killed dozens,” Kirby said. “Whereas the Christian population in Egypt is roughly 10-15% of the country’s population, Catholics make up less than 1%. To have the leader of a minority Church take the time to visit a country with such a small number of Catholics is incredibly significant in showing the need for all people of faith to come together and engage in dialogue and cooperation.”
In meeting with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, President Sisi, and Pope Tawadros II (leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church), Pope Francis underscores the importance of all faith communities to work together to foster tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.
“The inspiration he will provide to the Christian population in the country will be massive,” Kirby said. “The public appearance between the Pope and the Grand Imam shows to all Egyptians that Christians and Muslims can interact, exchange ideas and promote a spirit of cooperation and solidarity for the betterment of society.”
Kirby continued, “Muslims and Christians have co-existed for centuries in Egypt and despite religious differences, these are communities that share common values and aspirations for their families and communities. The Pope visiting lends a credibility to these inter-religious dialogues that cannot be underestimated.”
Building on years of experience, CRS implements a US Department of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) project with local Muslim and Christian partners in Egypt called BOKRA, which translates into “tomorrow” in Arabic. BOKRA aims to foster tolerance, coexistence, and mutual respect across religious lines in two governorates of Upper Egypt. The project focuses on mothers, youth and religious and community leaders to build and strengthen inter-faith relationships.
“It is the impact of this project, and other similar efforts in the country, that makes me believe this visit can have a lasting impact on inter-religious dialogue and peaceful coexistence,” Kirby said.