Words on the pages of Egyptian history have formed a new story of the glorious stories of the country, which write the future of modern Egypt. On the sixth of January, President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, in the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Prof. Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb and His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of See of St. Mark, inaugurated Al Fattah Al Aleem Mosque and the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ on the same day, at the New Administrative Capital, affirming the messages of peace, harmony and humanity which are advocated by religions, and that Egypt is progressing with her children. That day was the day of promise fulfilling, as he promised and indeed fulfilled.
Al Fattah Al Aleem Mosque is one of the biggest mosques around the world, it is located on the new ring middle road, also the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ is considered the biggest in the Middle East and the Arab World. Thus, the biggest Cathedral is constructed next to the biggest mosque and are linked by “Civilization Path” way. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II gave a word at the inauguration in front of the memorial tablet of Al Fattah Al Aleem Mosque after welcoming:
“This is a day of joy and rejoice as we see our beloved country write a new page in the history of the Egyptian deep rooted civilization. Egypt has taught the world the art of architecture; it built obelisks in the Pharaonic age, steeples in the Christian ages, and minarets in the Islamic ages. Today we celebrate an unprecedented occasion in history, where the minarets of Al-Fattah Al Alim Mosque are embracing those of the Nativity of Christ Cathedral, opening a new horizon for our beloved country on this happy occasion. In this inauguration, we witness how Egypt cares for the soft power.
On this happy occasion, we rejoice in these edifices which are built with the funds and donations of the Egyptians of whom Mr. President was the first donor. They were built with the efforts and creativity of Egyptian engineers, technicians and workers, and were built with sincerity and honesty. As an Egyptian citizen, I stand in this holy mosque and rejoice with all my beloved brethren on this happy occasion which is engraved in the history of Egypt. Lord Christ taught us that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Mr. President, in January 2017, you have made this noble promise of constructing the mosque and the church, and this was deemed nearly impossible as both are giant edifices which cannot be performed during such brief time, but today, we celebrate your fulfillment of the promise, here we witness the great inauguration on this solemn occasion. We express much thanks to your Excellency, to all the companies that have worked and participated in these buildings. We thank all the engineers, technicians, consultancy offices, and the workers who cared. We express special thanks to the Armed Forces and the Engineering Corps of the Armed Forces, which planned, supervised and cared for this great work in such short period. We thank you all and pray that God fills us and keeps our love and unity together. The world will witness on this blessed night this icon which we present to everyone, showing how our Egypt lives in this unity and in this love. We pray that God always keeps it and keeps you in the leadership of our beloved country. Thanks for all, long live Egypt.”
Also, His Eminence Grand Imam of Al Azhar Prof. Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb gave a word in the inauguration in front of the memorial tablet of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, he said:
“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, I am glad tonight for I am in the company of Mr. President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, President of Arab Republic of Egypt, His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, my dear brother His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, in order to participate in the inauguration of two of the greatest edifices of worship in Egypt. Speaking in this occasion, I would like to say a few words, describing how this occasion is exceptional, it probably has not happened before throughout the history of Christianity and Islam, as far as I know, it is the first time in history that a mosque and a church are built and inaugurated at the same time, for the purpose of the embodiment of the soul of brotherhood and mutual love between Muslims and their Christian brothers – I have not heard about a similar event before we celebrate those grand edifices of great architecture in which Egypt takes pride.
On behalf of myself and the high level delegation of Al Azhar, I convey to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi our sincere thanks for this remarkable achievement. At the same time, I congratulate my dear brother His Holiness the Pope, as well as our Christian brothers in Egypt and abroad, for this new cathedral, which will undoubtedly stand lofty beside the new mosque of Al Fattah Al Alim mosque in steadfastness, they form a symbol of resistance to all the attempts of tamper with the stability of the country. I will not speak at length.
Yet, I have to say a word concerning the churches and Islam’s stance of it.
The issue of the churches in Islam is a settled topic, which is summarized as follows: First: Islam or the state of Islam is a legitimate guarantor of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, this is also a legitimate rule. Since the Sharia enjoins Muslims to protect mosques, it similarly enjoins them to protect churches. Muslims precede Christians in protecting the churches, this is not a compliment, but rather a ruling based on a verse of the Holy Quran we all memorize well. Unfortunately, its meaning may be unclear to some, even experts. This verse entrust Muslims to defend the worshipping places of Jews, Muslims and Christians together:
“And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned.”
This verse orders Muslims to protect their mosques as well as the worshipping places of the non Muslims, like churches and synagogues.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent to the Nazarenes of Najran treaties which guaranteed that their churches would remain as they were, not approached by anyone, and nothing of the churches would be adjoined to a mosque or a Muslim’s house. He allowed them to play their cymbals, keep their crosses and finally announced that he who does not abide by this covenant is a traitor to God and His Messenger.
Eventually, I assure that it is untruthful to make misguided attempts to use fatwas issued in a completely different historical period, for example: when the Romans lurked Islam which was the new religion then, or during the crusades. People now use these fatwas, which had been issued as protective measures then, as if they are compatible to today’s time and place, claiming that Islam forbids constructing churches. This is wrong, history reveals that all the churches in Egypt were built in the age of Islam, and after the arrival of Islam in Egypt in the full glare of Al Azhar’s scholars and experts since more than a thousand years.
I reiterate my thanks to Mr. President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi for this great achievement which Egypt is entitled to take pride in, as it shows that Egypt is the exemplary of harmony and brotherliness between religions, and particularly between Islam and Christianity. Thanks for all the great Egyptian efforts which achieved those two edifices in a brief time.”
Mr. President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi gave a concluding word from inside the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, he said:
“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Let me welcome all the guests we have today; His Excellency President Abu Mazen, the Palestinian President, the guests of our sister Arab countries. I welcome them in this historic moment. Let me express respect for the souls of our Egyptian martyrs; the Christian members of army and police, civilians, even those of the attacked mosque.
I want to say that this moment is very important in our history, because when I was at St Mark’s Cathedral two years ago, I told His Holiness the pope that we would be celebrating the completion of the new cathedral, and here we are standing together with the promise of constructing the cathedral and Al Fattah al Alim mosque fulfilled.
This occasion is a message that we will not allow anybody to come between us, and I do not like to use the term sectarian strife because Muslims and Christians in Egypt are one, and will stay one, this occasion represents a tree of love which we have planted together, but this tree still needs attention and care so that its fruit reaches from Egypt to the whole world.
Strife will not end, but God saved Egypt and He will continue to do so for the sake of its people, who are all kind and good people.
In 2013, when many churches were attacked, the pope said at the time: a country without churches is better than churches without a country, I will not forget these words from Pope Tawadros, as they reflect so great meanings. We are building 14 cities which will contain mosques and churches.
We shall take care of our country, do not forget that, for hence, we will be able to do everything. Happy new year for all of you and happy Nativity Your Holiness Pope. Long live Egypt.”
Here, I remembered a long history of the Egyptian struggle as the hands of all Egyptians were extended for the good and dignity of their country.
Egypt has undergone great events and successive circumstances in which all Egyptians – Muslims and Christians, cooperated, such as the national movement, which was at its peak in 1919 revolution when people united for patriotism and defense of their freedom. Egyptian memory cannot forget the situations in which the priests gave speeches on the rostrum of mosques, while the Sheikhs gave their speeches from the pulpits of churches in an icon that affirms that the Egyptians are one united people despite their different doctrines and religions, this is expressed in the slogan of the revolution: “Religion is for God and homeland is for all” and in the words of the immortal leader Saad Zaghloul who said: “The gunshots of the occupation do not differentiate between a Muslim and a Christian.”
In his book Modern Egypt, Lord Chromer said: “There is no difference between a Muslim and a Christian in Egypt except in the place of prayer: as one prays in the mosque while the other prays in the church.” Thus, in all the situations that have Egypt passed through, only one united people was seen standing together. The Egyptian scene witnessed by the whole world when millions of Egyptians came out on 30/6/2013 expressing their will and glorious revolution for Egypt, cannot be forgotten.
The pages of history did not stop at those scenes, but they continued to show the Egyptian army standing in all the wars afflicted the country as one man defending his homeland; all the soldiers, Muslims and Christians, stood in love of the homeland, passing together through the pain of defeat and the joy of victories, having their blood mingled. As Egypt has always been of one united people in times of adversity, it now affirms that it remains so in times of construction and work.
That day had a global resonance, for example, US President Trump twittered: “I am excited to see our friends in Egypt inaugurating the largest cathedral in the Middle East. President Al Sisi is moving his country towards a broader future.” I congratulate all Egyptians for the inauguration of the mosque and the cathedral, during such blessed days that fill our hearts with peace and pleasure: “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
As the message of Christ is love and peace to the world, it also should be the approach of Egyptians in their lives. May Egypt be always fine.
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center