In a full-page interview of “Al Masry Al Youm” newspaper, and an interview on CBC Channel, Dr. Rev. Andrea Zaki, President of the protestant Churches of Egypt and CEOSS General Director, opened up and addressed many topics that are close and sensitive to all Christians in Egypt. The interview covered topics of Christian worship houses, sectarian violence, personal status, economic crisis, government and Parliament performance, religious discourse, and civil society. Al Masry Al Youm is a renowned newspaper in Egypt and one of the top selling papers especially after Jan 25 revolution. Dr. Zaki was the main feature of the 14 August issue. CBC Channel is also one of the largest and most important satellite TV networks in Egypt and the Arab world. Dr. Andrea was interviewed on August 17th.
Christian worship houses
Dr. Rev Andrea Zaki said in an interview with Al Masry Al Youm Newspaper that there is only one draft law, presented by the Egyptian government, concerned with building and resorting Christian worship houses that was approved and signed by the three Christian sects in Egypt. Different parties and activists presented other draft laws, yet they were never of consent of the three churches. He also mentioned that if there is a draft law regulating building worship houses generally, it would be good to have a discussion on it.
He also said that he received a number of suggestions concerning changing the word “sect” to “Church” in order not to be discriminatively used. “We believe that after June 30 Revolution, Egypt should be free of sectarian discrimination. This is what we expect from the current parliament, to uphold revolution values,” he said.
He pointed out that all Christian places of worship (without official licenses) has security approval, even an oral one; therefore, the state should acknowledge all churches in Egypt. He also mentioned that all closed churches due to security reasons should be opened after issuing the new law, especially that Egyptians appreciate the sanctity of worship places.
Dr. Zaki also wondered what is the harm of building churches or what negative effect does it have on the society. He explained that any building associated with the church is not business based; however, it seeks to serve all Egyptians with no regard to their religion. “Church buildings are centers of peace and coexistence; hence, the law should clearly promote building churches,” He said.
Dr. Zaki expressed his discontent with current sectarian tensions that seek to torn out the Egyptian unity as well as relations between Christians and the state. “Of course there are many extremists and fanatics who act against values of the revolution; however we always call upon putting laws into action in order to deter outlaws and eliminate those violent acts.” he stated.
Christian-Muslim relations have developed especially after the reign of Sisi, however the media highlights the sectarian violent events that actually forms a minor percentage comparing Muslim Vs. Christian population. “I made a study on the causes of sectarian tensions in the past 30 years and realized that there are two main causes. The first is building a church without a license, or religious conversion.” He said. Therefore, if the state issued a law regulating building and restoring churches, this will reduce sectarian violence. We should also call for religious freedom as long as it is the person’s own choice.
Dr. Zaki also commended President Sisi’s response after the recent sectarian events by calling Pope Tawadros II and other orthodox leaders into a meeting, which in return left a positive sense to all Christians. Although there are hidden agendas to ruin relations between Copts and Sisi, yet I see that both the Church and the President are willing to overcome these agendas,” he said.
Dr. Zaki mentioned that the protestant church is preparing a draft law to present to the state, especially that the Orthodox Church as already drafted a law for them and presented it to the government. The draft law was distributed among the different protestant sects, addressing divorce causes, civil marriage, inheritance, adoption, to take their consent.
He said that Egypt has been facing a lot of terrorism after the revolution, which has negatively affected tourism income. Also the decline in world trade and oil price as well as the increase in dollar exchange rate has also affected the economic situation. “However, I am sure that the government and the parliament will combat corruption; and the revenues of the mega projects will achieve an economic breakthrough,” Dr. Zaki said.
He also mentioned that the new Suez Canal is facing objection of some people because it is a tough luck that it was launched during the decline of world trade. He believes that it is achieving a good revenue and it will increase in the coming years.
Government and Parliament performance
Dr. Zaki pointed out that some minsters and governors should be changed to push the economic prosperity. He also thinks that the parliament is doing well since it includes a new generation of youth, females and Copts.
Dr. Zaki suggested that there is a long way for religious institutions to develop their religious discourse, especially that those in leadership of these institutions have conservative or some extremist views of religion. “I, as a church leader, believe that the development of religious discourse should involve media, education and culture as well as civil society organizations that can assume a vital role in this process,” he said.
Dr. Zaki explained that civil society is divided into four main categories: charity organizations, development organizations concerned with poverty, development institutions concerned with Human rights (these three categories form the majority of civil society in Egypt), and Human rights organizations. Most of the human rights organizations are active and work for the public, but some are corrupted. “I am definitely for monitoring funds, yet I support the freedom of funding sources. I believe that the new NGOs law will regulate these matters transparently and fairly, and will be positively affecting the image of the country abroad,” he clarified.
Al Masry Al Youm Article: http://today.almasryalyoum.com/article2.aspx?ArticleID=515344&IssueID=4053
Interview on CBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YN8Nsqxviuk