Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt visited the World Council of Churches (WCC) headquarters here on Monday, Sept. 1.
In the presence of representatives from ecumenical and international organizations, Tawadros participated in morning worship followed by a meeting with staff and a conversation with the WCC general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.
Pope Tawadros is head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, a founding member church of the WCC since 1948.
In his reflections, Tawadros spoke about historic contributions of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as among them vibrant traditions of spirituality, theological studies and monastic life.
“The Coptic Church is one of the main pillars of Egyptian society,” he said.
Tawadros said there is a “new hope for Egypt” with the adoption of a new constitution in the country. He remembered the June 2013 revolution in Egypt where, he said, “Christians and Muslims with everyone else struggled together to end the dark regime”.
Tawadros affirmed the long history of peaceful social coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Giving examples of cooperation between Christians and Muslims, he mentioned the “Family House” ― a project established by the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar, carrying out a number of national programs.
Recalling the attacks on Christian buildings in Egypt over recent years, Tawadros stressed that efforts must be enhanced to end violence perpetrated by extremist groups.
“If they attack churches we will pray in mosques, if they attack mosques, we will pray on roads. We can pray in a country without a church but cannot pray in a church without a country,” he said.
Tawadros expressed concern over migration of Christians from the Middle East. He called it a “dangerous trend” which he said cannot solve problems faced by Christian communities in the region.
The WCC general secretary expressed his gratitude to Pope Tawadros for his reflections. In his remarks, Tveit affirmed the commitment of the WCC in solidarity with Christians around the world, particularly those in critical situations like Egypt’s.
He added that the WCC is a global fellowship which brings together churches from the East and the West in a quest for unity, justice and peace.
Tveit expressed appreciation for the Coptic Church’s role in redesigning Egyptian society. He said that such a role is integral in bridging gaps between different sectors in Egypt.
Tveit highlighted the important role of Egypt in the Arab world, such as its potential for mediation in Gaza. Due to such situations, Tveit said the witness of the Coptic Orthodox Church is extremely significant for Christianity’s presence in the Middle East.
Also, Tveit added that the way Christians and Muslims live together in Egypt can be an example for other countries in the region. He commended Pope Tawadros’ vision of upholding human rights, which Tveit said reflects “our theological conviction that all human beings are created in the image of God.”
Among participants of the event was Pierre Martinot-Lagarde of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO, in cooperation with the WCC, has initiated projects on the role of faith communities in promoting decent work among youth in Egypt as a way to social justice and peace.
The Rev. Kaisamari Hintikka of the Lutheran World Federation, John Nduna of the ACT Alliance, Pat Gleeson of the ECLOF International, Agnès Arluison-Krüzsely of the Foundation for Assistance to Reformed Protestantism, Stephen Brown of Globethics.net and Christine Houssel of the World Student Christian Federation were also present, as were representatives of the Association of Churches and Christian Communities of Geneva.