Hong Kong TV station

Importance of highlighting Egyptian efforts for dialogue. Part of my job in Egypt is to bring foreign crews here for reporting. In December I took the Hong Kong based Network J International TV, led by famous TV Pastor Enoch Lam,

to meet prominent Egyptians for a documentary on stability in Egypt. Media tend to focus on the negative. Rev. Enoch Lam, however, wanted to highlight Egypt’s efforts to maintain stability. We have had great interviews:

Former Foreign Minister Mohamed Orabi stressed security for all citizens (feeling safe regardless of where one goes) and economic progress as key prerequisites for stability. Economic growth needs, among other things, tourists. Tourists want to be secure.  The image of Egypt has been badly hurt by the Western media constantly focusing on the negative and its insufficient focus on Egyptian efforts to bring peace, stability and progress to the country.

Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, emeritus professor of mass communication at the American University in Cairo, and senior fellow at the Arab-West Foundation, highlighted the Common Word Initiative of Muslim scholars and intellectuals, presenting what Muslims and Christians have in common instead of highlighting differences. Later many other Muslim scholars and intellectuals signed the letter, probably around 1000 people now. The Common Word Initiative influenced later initiatives such as the Bayt al-Eila (the house of the family), and the Azhar Initiative.

Archbishop Mounir, head of the Episcopal Church of North Africa, Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Gulf States, spoke about the Bayt al-Eila in which Muslim and Christian Egyptians contribute to dialogue and mutual cooperation. Through the organization, Archbishop Mounir initiated a program to foster better relations between priests and imams. 

Archbishop Mounir explicitly highlighted the importance of Arab-West Report. Media, he said, focus too much on the negative, when this happens they are often exaggerating and at times even inventing issues in order to make a story more dramatic. He much appreciated Arab-West Report’s efforts to counter such reporting.

Sheikh Dr. Anas Aboshady, professor of comparative fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) at the Azhar University, the main center of learning in the Islamic world, explained that comparative fiqh shows that different interpretations of holy scriptures are possible in Islam. He strongly opposes extremist beliefs that state that one interpretation only is possible.  Sheikh Dr. Anas Aboshady also spoke about the Azhar Initiative, initiated by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb to heal divisions in Egyptian society. 

Pope Tawadros gave an interview on the Egyptian Holy Family tradition which is based on St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2. Matthew writes that Joseph, Mary and Jesus went to Egypt but in the tradition many locations have been mentioned, showing a very lively Christian tradition in a Muslim environment and giving a good example of Muslims and Christians living in harmony together. Sameh Saad, Advisor to the Minister of Tourism, stressed the importance of the Holy Family tradition for the Egyptian Government. They want to promote this and also attract cultural tourism.

The Hong Kong team also met with Eng Nagwa Raouf who is working to improve the living conditions of Ezbet Hagana, a very poor area close to Medinet Nasr. The big discrepancies between rich and poor were a major element resulting in the January 25 revolution. If Egypt is to remain stable the poor need to be given a chance for a better living.

We met in the Two Saints Church in Alexandria with the Alexandrian dialogue committee who spoke about the many efforts to build and strengthen bridges between different communities in Alexandria.

Pastor Dr. Rev. Sameh Hanna of the Presbyterian Qasr el-Dubara Church close to Tahrir Square in Cairo spoke about having a sincere love for Egypt. Only with a sincere love for Egypt can we work towards improvements for the country. This certainly does not only apply to Egyptians only but also to non-Egyptians who can contribute with efforts to build up the country. This does not need to be done through grand projects but can be done simply, by showing friends and family the many positive sides that Egypt has to offer. 

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