Bishop Anba Stephanos (Orthodox Coptic) of Beba and Elfashn
Coptic Bishop: “Christians are currently experiencing their worst time in recent centuries”
Christians in Egypt are currently experiencing their worst time in recent centuries. This statement was made by the Coptic Orthodox Bishop Stephanos of Beba and Elfashn to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Christians are being violently killed under the eyes of the international media. Also, for the first time in many years, churches are being systematically burned and destroyed. The police are taking no action and nobody is punished for it. In the Egyptian media, “the facts are systematically covered up in order to keep the international media from reporting the truth and bringing pressure from outside,” he complained. However, video films showing the massacre of demonstrators on 9 October were broadcast by the three television stations operated by the Coptic Church and have thus also found their way into the international media. This time the attacks on Copts “have been better documented”.
Bishop Anba Stephanos (Orthodox Coptic) of Beba and Elfashn during his visit to ACN (© ACN)
Problems are also experienced in day-to-day life because calls are often made in the media not to buy from Christian merchants or to sell anything to Christians. Businessmen are therefore faced with a struggle for economic survival. Christians are indirectly excluded from employment, for example by job advertisements specifying “a female employee with headscarf”. Attempts are being made “to drive the Christians out”.
The Bishop warned against placing too much hope in the elections that are planned to take place in Egypt at the end of November. The future is “absolutely unclear”, he said. Nevertheless, in his view the Copts can “play a major role” because they are “numerically strong”.
Bishop Stephanos underlined the need for mutual solidarity among Christians. Jesus Christ said that we are all of one body. When one limb suffers, all the others suffer with it. Asked about his hopes for the future, the Bishop said: “We pray for freedom and peace, not only for Egypt but for the whole world.” If peace existed, the consequence would be that such problems would no longer arise. Nevertheless, all Coptic Christians are “prepared for martyrdom, as at the beginnings of Christianity.” From childhood onwards they hold close ties to their Church, which they regard as “their mother”. They would “support their country and their Church without any hesitation.”
Egypt has a total population of some 76 million, of whom 12 million are Christians. The majority of these belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Nearly 200,000 are Catholics.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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