02/01/2013, 00.00
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Al Azhar offers a 'spiritual approach' to stop Egypt's violence

The university's rector al-Tayeb presents a ten-point plan. Various figures attend the event, including Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II. The sacredness of life and the diversity of Egyptian society are among the subjects covered. The document also calls on media and religious leaders to denounce violence.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "Al-Azhar's plan is a spiritual, patriotic and social reminder to all Egyptians, and will be followed and supported by the whole population," Fr Rafic Greiache, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews. He was speaking about the university's ten-point initiative, a plan backed by the Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and Evangelical Churches designed to help Egypt go beyond its current crisis, which has pitted the Islamist establishment against secular movements and left more than 50 people dead.

Divided into ten points, the declaration focuses on four fundamental questions. First, life is sacred. Second, diversity is the basis of Egyptian society. Thirdly, media and religious leaders must denounce violence and call for peaceful protests. Fourthly, dialogue is the only way to resolve outstanding differences.

Although this one is not al Azhar's only good initiatives according to Catholic clergyman, it runs the risk of ending up like previous ones.  In fact, none of them have had any effect on the country's Islamist government, especially in relation to its new Sharia-based constitution.

In January 2012, when the presidential campaign got underway, the university issued a declaration on fundamental freedoms, laying down guidelines for the new society emerging out of the Arab spring. In it, the university defended freedom of religion, opinion, scientific research and artistic creativity. Similarly, in a statement released in June 2011, when the country was still under a transitional military government, the university issued recommendations for Egypt's future.

Now, in its third statement, al Azhar has decided to call on young people to demonstrate peacefully and engage the country's rulers in dialogue.

The fact is that, two years after Mubarak's fall, protesters are vulnerable, still without a leader.  

What is more, "Secular parties follow the protests, they do not control young protesters; above all, they cannot lead them," Fr Greiche explained.

Islamists, police and hooligans have also routinely infiltrated the demonstrations, taking advantage of the chaos and the protest movement's lack of organisation to cause violence. In turn, this has had an impact on the revolution's young participants.

Presented by Ahmed al-Tayeb, rector of Al-Azhar, the ten-point plan is backed by various secular movements who had urged the university to act as guarantor for the dialogue between Islamists and the opposition.

Many prominent figures attended the meeting. They include Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, some Salafist leaders like Mohamed Hassan, and representatives of the secular opposition led by Mohamed ElBaradei Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Egypt's Constitution Party. (S.C.)

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