Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is this week embarking on his first visit abroad since his enthronement earlier this year. Lambeth Palace says the Anglican official chose the Holy Land because of the region’s importance to global stability.
Welby is “deeply concerned for justice and for the security of all the peoples of the region, and the pressures on its Christian communities,” according to a statement from Lambeth Palace. “In particular he wants to support and honour the work of the President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis in Cairo; and the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Right Revd Suheil Dawani, with whom he will be staying in Jerusalem and who will accompany him on all his visits.”
This spring I met Bishop Anis in North Carolina at the New Wineskins for Global Mission Conference. Bishop Anis spoke on the difficult situation his fellow Egyptian Christians face, especially in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” uprising that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“It was like the honeymoon,” Anis described of Egyptian Christians and Muslims joining together to protest corruption, low quality of life, high food prices and unemployment. Women and Christians began to participate in political life, and one man openly proclaimed “I am a convert from Islam, I am a Christian, that is my right.”
Unfortunately, harmony did not endure as Islamist groups asserted themselves. Anis outlined four Islamic groups in Egypt, each a smaller concentric circle within another:
Anis described the majority of Egypt’s Muslim population as “ordinary, normal people without an agenda except to live peacefully.”