Adapted from ACNS
Significant meetings in Cairo last week helped form alliances for peace between Muslims and Christians in Sudan, South Sudan, and Malaysia.
The Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, organized meetings involving Anglican leaders, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (the renowned Islamic university, mosque, and center in Cairo), and Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Most Rev. Daniel Deng, Archbishop of Sudan, thanked the Grand Imam, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, for his remarks that “have brought moderation into Sudanese society and saved lives.”
The leaders encouraged Grand Imam Ahmad el-Tayyeb to “play a role in combatting false Islamic teaching that is propagated by extremists, especially in Africa.” In response, the Grand Imam said that Al-Azhar is committed to correcting such teachings, which often lead to terrorism and violence.
During their meeting, leaders asked the Grand Imam about Christians using the word Allah to describe God. This is the name used for God in the Malay language, but the Malaysian supreme court has ruled that its use by Christians is contrary to Malaysian law, leading to the confiscation of Malay language Bibles.
Grand Imam el-Tayyeb said that Allah is one and is the creator of the whole universe, and that all human beings can use his name, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists. He said that politics lay behind banning the use Allah by non-Muslims.
The Grand Imam expressed his appreciation for “brotherly relations with the Anglican Church in Egypt” and stressed the importance of the partnership and collegiality between religious leaders for the common good of humanity.
“It is important that we work together to overcome the challenges that are facing the world,” he said. “In the 1930s, [Mustapha el Maraghi] sent a message out to all religious leaders. In it he said, ‘Atheists are united, we are not.’
“The danger is that division between religious leaders is almost always politically backed. Instead of leading to better humanity, politicized religion leads to wars.”
He said that Christians of the East held on to the teachings of Christ.
“When Christianity moved from this region [the Middle East] to the West, it didn’t make the West Christian; it made Christianity Western.”
The archbishops at the meeting support Lambeth 1.10, the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that affirms the Church’s historic doctrine of marriage and sexuality. The Grand Imam mentioned changes to historic teaching on the subject by some Anglican churches, saying that the issue in the West was seen from the viewpoint of human rights rather in moral and ethical terms. “I personally see this as an insult to [the teaching of] Jesus Christ by one of his own churches,” he said.
Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, raised the same concern.
“We need to stand firm and keep the Church traditions,” he told them. “If this issue is a human rights one, where is God the Creator’s right?”
In their discussions, the leaders welcomed the latest achievements of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission, and particularly the historic agreed statement on Christology.
They also discussed the possibility of a unified date for Easter celebrations. Easter is celebrated on different dates in the Eastern and Western churches. There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to reach agreement on a unified date during the past 100 years.
Pope Tawadros wrote to Pope Francis in May 2014, asking for a renewed effort at reaching agreement on a unified date. Pope Francis replied that it was “important that we all celebrate the resurrection of Christ together.”
Pope Tawardros told the archbishops that such a move “will help all Christians, especially if they are minority in their context.”
The archbishops heard a brief history of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which began in Egypt in the first century through the witness of St. Mark the evangelist.
Pope Tawadros emphasized the importance of Christian unity: “We have good relations with all churches, especially with the Anglican church here in Egypt.”
In addition to Anis, archbishops at the meetings were Bolly Lapok of South East Asia, Daniel Deng of Sudan, Henri Isingoma of Congo, Glenn Davies of Sydney, Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop Charlie Masters, moderator of ACNA’s Canadian branch, the Anglican Network in Canada, joined them.
Images of the meetings posted by the Diocese of Egypt