In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews Msgr. Antonios Aziz Mina describes a country, and a Christian community, still wounded by recent attacks, but ready to welcome the pontiff. The pain of Muslims for attacks on churches. Egypt capable of breaking the backward-looking bonds of the Islamic State. In the East, there are economic interests that revolve around oil.
Giza (AsiaNews) - Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina, Catholic Coptic bishop Emeritus of Giza, on the west bank of the Nile River, about 20km southwest of Cairo, was a member of the committee that drafted the Egyptian Constitution. The 62 year-old Doctor of the Law is the most authoritative source to talk about what Christians in Egypt think faced with local and international politics.
Here is his exclusive interview with AsiaNews on the eve of Pope Francis's historic visit to Egypt:
On the eve of the apostolic journey, Egypt is still in mourning for the 44 victims of the two Palm Sunday attacks. We know the perpetrators of crime. What do you think Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic state] wants to do with the Arab world? Will it succeed in eliminating the region of a Christian presence?
Of course, this is possible. But you also have to look beneath the tip of the iceberg. Daesh's ideologist realizes that no matter what it does, it cannot empty the East of its Christians.
Who is this "ideologist" you speak of?
It's not just one, but multiple. The "caliph" al-Baghdadi is but a simple front man for whatever the different countries and powers of the world decide. I do not think there is a conspiracy theory for the East. It’s a game of vested interests. Those who have vested interests are the ones who are making moves. And they are not just interested in ripping Egypt a part, they want to reduce the entire region to rubble.
Why do they want to destabilize the region?
When two people quarrel, it is the third who enjoys the battle. The West buys our oil at a certain price. If our nations are divided, and there are several authorities within one state, they can get wrangle their energy at a lower price. You can find an answer for many things if you start from this axiom. But I have the impression that most people do not want to understand and spend most of their time complaining, on the pretext that the West wants to get involved in our internal affairs and hates us. Why do we fail to understand all this? It gladdens me to note that now the interests of the United States, in many respects, converge with those of Egypt. This was not the case with [Barack] Obama. But nothing is given forever. Yesterday's enemies can become the partners of today, and vice versa. Just look at the Second World War. This is natural in the world of politics. It is up to us to defend and protect our interests according to our will. Egypt has broken the expansion of that chain that wanted to break through borders and connect the Arab countries under a yoke of terror and obscurantism. But God has saved us from all this.
While some followed this theory, millions have emigrated from Syria and Iraq, leaving their country. And Christians in Egypt live and are victims of terror ...
Those people approach God in an state of terror and pain. It is a vision that should not be hidden. This huge sacrifice has accompanied and covered our Easter celebrations with a veil of sadness. But what is surprising in this story is that the pain was not just that of Christians. Strong was the cry of pain from our Muslim brothers, a sincere sorrow. They too felt hurt by this barbaric act. And at the same time, even though we have suspended Easter celebrations in our churches, the Muslims have not ceased to have us wishes, to come and visit us only to share our suffering. Their message was: "We are deep in the heart near you." And that was a sincere message.
Following the attacks, while skeptics thought the opposite, Pope Francis confirmed his visit to Egypt. How do you judge this decision?
His Holiness wants to express his deepest sympathy to the Christians of Egypt for their pain, no matter what the implications for security. As an Egyptian Catholic, I am proud to see that my Church will never accept injustice or discrimination, and that it is close to its suffering people. The Holy Father also sent one of his most important cardinals to confirm the visit, also giving comfort to [coptic-orthodox] Pope Tawadros II.
What do you think of the Pope Tawadros’ homily at the Easter Mass?
Pope Tawadros is a holy man. A person rich in faith and patience. He gave a strong lesson about the behavior of a true Christian in the face of pain: bitter, serious, rigorous. While remaining a shepherd and spiritual guide. And with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's condolences to the Coptic Orthodox patriarch, we have heard how much he is the president of all the Egyptians, even though we are going through difficult economic times.
Of course, we live in a period that is not favorable in economic terms or in terms of the increase in religious violence and divisions within the Churches. What can Pope Francis do in all this?
When people do not meet, their ideas diverge completely and their hearts lose the heat. If I want to draw closer, the first step I have to take is to go to the other, to those who differ from me. I have to see him, greet him, smile at him, meet him, invite him to take a walk or to dinner. To entertain with him, to talk about what unites us and what we have in common, all of this in view of mutual acceptance. The Pope has a special message for each of us and I imagine that this message will be of the kind: "There is a dear theme that I would like to touch upon and which I would like to understand." And this issue goes beyond Egyptian politics, it goes beyond Al-Azhar, and beyond the Orthodox. It is about the well-being of all humanity.