Fr Bimal Kerketta has lived in Egypt for 14 years. Pope Francis is a "man of peace. He has resisted terror and extremism [. . .] with great courage and wisdom.” Egyptians love him because despite threats and the tragic attacks against the two Coptic churches, he has not postponed his visit.
Minya (AsiaNews) - Fr Bimal Kerketta is an Indian Jesuit who has lived in Minya, Egypt, for the past 14 years. He is in charge of a local middle school run by French Jesuits. He spoke to AsiaNews about Pope Francis’ upcoming apostolic visit to Egypt (28-29 April)
As Francis himself said in his recent video-message to the Egyptian people, the papal visit will be centred on peace, Fr Kerketta said.
For him, the pontiff in Egypt "will make history". His visit has a special meaning because he wants to "strengthen the culture of peace and coexistence among the followers of the two great religions, Muslims and Christians". The meeting with the Coptic Orthodox patriarch takes on particular significance since "the two great religious leaders will meet personally" and address the issue of ecumenical dialogue.
The Jesuit notes that the pope is a "man of peace. He has resisted terror and extremism, and with great courage and wisdom he has decided to pursue his plan. This is why the Egyptian people love him.”
“Despite threats and the tragic attacks against the two Coptic churches*, he accepted the invitation made by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, and Grand Imam of Al Azhar Muhammad Ahmad al-Tayyeb.
According to Fr Kerketta, the decision not to postpone the visit to Egypt "shows how much importance peace and the [Egyptian] people are to him”. Indeed, "he wants to reiterate that violence is not the solution and must be stopped." The same sentiment is shared by "ordinary people who today want peace in the country."
Egypt is the cradle of an "ancient culture, of ancient cultural and biblical traditions. Today, however, it is an Islamic country with a Sunni majority and Christian minority. "
In the Middle East marked by divisions and conflicts, "people are looking for peace. They want to live in harmony with each other. " This is precisely the "message of religious freedom" that people expect from the pontiff’s visit.
The meetings with his Holiness Tawadros II and Grand Imam al-Tayeb will be the highlight of the visit. With this latter it is expected that Pope Francis will "promote dialogue and a culture of peaceful coexistence between Islam and Christianity".
With the Coptic Orthodox patriarch, "he will strengthen the action directed at leaders and intellectuals to pursue the path of greater mutual understanding".
As a Jesuit, Fr Kerketta believes that "for us the pope, our brother, will be a great source of inspiration and courage in the land of Egypt.”
Ultimately, “We need peace, not violence, understanding, dialogue, and the ability to listen to each other irrespective of the religion we practice. First of all, we are human beings who have to accept each other, regardless of whether we are Muslims or Christians."
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)