(By Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism). Anglican Archbishop Mouneer Anis was an Egyptian citizen like any other until soon after the Muslim Brotherhood took power in his home country of Egypt. A trained physician, Anis oversees a growing province of the Anglican Communion with hospitals, schools and numerous community centers serving Muslims and Christians alike. But for two years, his status as a Christian began to be viewed differently than others in the majority-Muslim nation.
“I never felt like I was a second-class citizen except between 2011 and 2013,” the President Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and The Middle East recalled. Relief from encroaching political oppression came in July of 2013 “when the people removed this Islamization of Egypt,” Anis, who also serves as diocesan bishop for Egypt, described. But it was the beginning of a different kind of difficulty as 60 churches were burned by angered supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood following the removal of President Mohammed Morsi from power. While one Anglican church building in Suez was damaged, many Coptic Egyptian church buildings were completely destroyed in attacks on the country’s sizeable but vulnerable Christian minority.
Anis spoke May 8 at an Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) dinner at the Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, Virginia, discussing both the plight of Christians in the Middle East and newfound opportunities for ministry in a tumultuous region.
Attacks on churches have continued, with twin suicide bombings at St. George’s Church in the city of Tanta on the Nile delta, and Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II. At least 45 people were reported killed and 126 injured in the Palm Sunday attacks, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a December 2016 bombing at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo, which killed 29 people and injured 47 others.
“They were Coptic Orthodox, but we are one Christian family,” the Anglican Archbishop declared. “One of the amazing things that happened is the forgiveness within the church – forgiveness towards the people who exploded themselves – was a great witness.”
Anis recalled one witness pondering aloud “from what substance are these Christians made? How on Earth do you forgive like this?”
The photo at the top of the page is Archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Anglican/Episcopal Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East speaking May 8 with Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Foley Beach at an event for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund in Falls Church, Virginia. (Photo: Erica Chapman/ARDF)