World Council of Churches head meets top Egyptian Islamic cleric

(Photo: WCC)The World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, with Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim at the office of Dar Al-Itfa Al-Misriyya in Cairo on April 21, 2013.

The World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, has met with senior Egyptin Islamic cleric Grand Mufti Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim in Cairo to discuss relations between different faiths in the North African country that experienced a revolution in February 2011.

In their meeting Monday the religious leaders engaged in in-depth dialogue to promote peaceful relations among diverse communities and values for equal citizenship, the WCC said in a statement.

Tveit met the Grand Mufti at the office of Dar Al-Itfa Al-Misriyya in Cairo.

In February 2011 the military regime of Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and after an election an Islamist government led by the Muslim Brotherhood was elected.

Many Christians say minorities have been sidelined by a new constitution that is slanted to Islam.

Recent sectartian violence has taken place with attacks on Christians, which have been increasing recently.

Speaking with the WCC general secretary, Abdel-Karim pointed out the common roots and experiences of both Muslims and Christians living together for centuries in Egypt, which he said should be the basis of a constructive engagement for promoting peaceful relations.

"We are a family, and our personal relations do not merely reflect in our faith identities in Egypt. We have been neighbours for centuries, interlocked in close proximity as religious communities," said the Grand Mufti, who is also a professor in Islamic jurisprudence.

He noted that, "alliances between Christians and Muslims are not only possible but already exist on the ground among ordinary people in their everyday lives. The values of honesty, trust and respect are shared among people of both Christian and Muslim faiths."

For his part Tveit said, "We reflect together with our Muslim partners on what it means to be a Christian or Muslim in the world today while faced with divisions which are perceived as tensions between us."

The world churches leaders said that this is cooperation with other faiths is an intrinsic part of the WCC's aspirations for Christian unity.

"We share a vision of peaceful relations among communities and hope for a common future, where living together as equal citizens in a democracy is possible.

"Therefore I see the role of religious leaders as an extremely important one to translate this vision into reality," said Tveit.

n response, Abdel-Karim said, ""We share your vision for peace on earth. And we strongly affirm the equality of all Egyptian citizens regardless of their religious associations. In our work we have taken concrete actions through different projects to bring diverse groups together and eliminate the eminent tensions between the communities.

"The powers sowing seeds of divisions should be curtailed," added the Grand Mufti.

Tveit was in Egypt for a two-day visit to the WCC member churches, following recent attacks against St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

He met with Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Rev. Safwat Al-Bayyadi, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, Bishop Munir Anise, Anglican bishop in Egypt, and other church leaders.

Tveit also attended an event organized by the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, where he addressed a diverse audience representing churches, interfaith networks and Muslim organizations in Cairo.

He met local media, speaking on issues related to religious freedom, inter-religious dialogue and cooperation between Christian and Muslim networks.

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