Journalists delegation from the UAE, Jordan, Sudan and Egypt visited the the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center on Monday, February 27, 2017 and were welcomed by HG Bishop Ermia General Bishop and head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center and in the presence of Dr. Gerges Saleh. The visit is in coordination with Al-Azhar as those journalists will cover the International Conference (freedom and citizenship .. diversity and integration) held by Al-Azhar, and heads of Middle East Churches are invited to it and Sheikh of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb and HH Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria will attend it.
Bishop Ermia accompanied them on a tour during which they visited the center, the Patriarchal Museum and Coptic Panorama, and then visited the Petrine church.
HG Bishop Ermia spoke to journalists about the conference.
He said: Muslim and Christian religious figures need to lead by example and spend more time harmonising so members of society will follow their footsteps,
“It is in the nature of Arabs to be influenced by their religious leaders, so when they are seen together some will reconsider their rejection of the other,” he said.
When such discussions are held, the door remains open for feedback and further discussion, Bishop Ermia said.
“We don’t hold talks and that’s it, we let the people ask questions and raise inquiries, because this is a meeting of ideologies,” he said.
Interaction in daily lives and during social occasions is essential for promoting tolerance by convincing the public they are working together, Bishop Ermia said.
“In some villages, you don’t see the priest and the imam exchanging social greetings, so the people aren’t used to building bridges between them,” he said.
The conference will conclude with the adoption of Al Azhar’s Declaration for Muslim-Christian Coexistence.
Bishop Ermia said an example of how walls between faiths could be broken is the Egyptian House joint programme between his centre and Al Azhar, which brings together Muslim and Christian clerics.
When they started the programme in April 2011, they noticed the men from each faith split on two sides of the room while eating.
“So we changed their seats and mixed them together, but still each person only stared at his plate,” Bishop Ermia said.
“So without them knowing, we split them across the rooms so that each Christian will share a room with a Muslim.”
A total of 220 Muslim and Christian clerics have graduated from the programme, he said.