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Archbishop Fitzgerald on aftermath of Egypt's Arab Spring
(Vatican Radio) The former Vatican ambassador to Egypt says Christians should become more actively engaged in the post Arab Spring political process taking place in their country. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who served as Apostolic Nuncio to Cairo and the Arab League from 2006 until last October, says the Catholic Church has played an important role in encouraging participation in the transition to democracy following the ouster of former ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011. But he says there is fear of the increasing influence of radical Islam and a lack of security for minority communities.
Archbishop Fitzgerald, a former head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, praised the growing cooperation of all the different Christian communities in Egypt and urged them to make their voice heard in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, expected to take place before the end of 2013.
Archbishop Fitzgerald, who currently lives in Jerusalem, was in Rome this week to give a lecture on the aftermath of the Arab Spring at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the challenges facing the Christian communities in Egypt today:
“There has been a gain in freedom of expression at least and the start of a more democratic process…..Egypt has been spared a civil war…though there is violence there, it isn’t the same degree that there was in Libya or still is in Syria unfortunately…
What is missing is the security….there was a promise to reform the Ministry of the Interior.…you have to give time to people who come to power….but people are disappointed that things aren’t being done….
People are afraid that the country is going to become more radically Islamic….there are new elections coming up later in the year and one would hope that people would say, well, we voted in these people last time but they don’t seem to have done anything for us, so let’s vote in somebody else….
I think the Church responded very well….by organizing meetings, courses…to make people aware of the importance of the democratic process….I think the Synod on the Middle East came at really the right moment, before the Arab Spring, in October 2010 – I think the message to Christians was just that, to be engaged in society, not to act as a minority that is suffering, withdrawn and enclosed in on itself, but to work together with others….
We’re very glad that the new Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II has shown a great openness to Christian unity….not only with Catholics but also Episcopalians, to Protestants and this is really a very good sign,”