Thursday, 24 January 2013

"We are not worried. It is against our faith"

Transcrição completa de entrevista com o Pe. Boulos, da Igreja Copta Ortodoxa. Ver reportagem aqui.

Full transcript of the interview with Fr. Boulos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church. See news story here, in Portuguese.

Are the Copts worried about the new Constitution which has just been enacted in Egypt?
The word “worried” is against our Faith. We are not worried at all.

In the holy Bible the phrase “Do not be worried”, or “do not be afraid” is mentioned in all its meanings, 366 times. So every day there is a message from Our Lord for each person: “Do not worry”. This is our faith. Not only for spiritual concerns but for all our concerns, we are not worried.

We are currently celebrating the feast of the Nativity, and the feast of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. At this time we remember that the name of Our Lord is Emmanuel, as Isaiah the prophet said, and this means “the Lord is with us”. So we are not worried because we believe Jesus Christ is with his people. Pope Shenouda III always said this: We are not worried because the Lord is with us.

So we have faith and we see His powerful and almighty hand in everything in our Church, in the history of the Church, starting in the first century, until now, until His second coming.

About the Constitution, it is not just the Copts, there are a lot of people refusing the Constitution. Even those who took part in preparing the Constitution say that there are many things in it which are not suitable, which are against the hope of the Egyptians for change. Some subjects are against human rights, some are against what we expect and even what we deserve. We deserve a better Constitution than this. They do not pay attention to the rights of children, women or minorities. This is very difficult for us.

Mainly the Muslim Brotherhood and the fundamentalists had the upper hand in writing the Constitution, reflecting only their views. About 27 people of the 100 who prepared the Constitution withdrew from the sessions. Not only the church, there were five people from the churches, three from the Orthodox Church, one Catholic and one Protestant. When 27 people withdraw it is to show the state that they oppose the Constitution, but they did not pay attention and they continued in a hurry to finish the Constitution in a few days and asked the people to vote in a few days.

Also the timing for the voting was not suitable at all, there were many political worries, many of the judges had problems with the regime and did not want to supervise the voting. Also there was not enough time for the uneducated to get to know what they were voting for. The people responsible even said that they could change some of the subjects afterwards in the new Parliament. So there is a big question, why were they in a hurry? But it doesn’t matter, this is the Constitution now in effect in Egypt, and we hope all will go well.

Does the Church see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat, or does it feel that it can work with the Muslim Brothers?
They are not a threat, we can deal with any regime. Mubarak’s regime was also Muslim, but we can deal with them, as with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the fundamentalists, any of them. We want our country to live in peace and love, safely, this is our hope. And we have the faith that our church is in the hand of God.

From the start of Christianity the Christian people suffered with the Romans, later from the Muslims, but our role is merely spiritual. We do not like to play politics. Our congregations, when they suffer and are deprived of their rights just because they are Christians, they go first to the people responsible, the President, Parliament, Government, and when they find that the problems are not solved, then they go to the Church, to ask the Church to interfere to get them their rights back. From that point we ask for the rights, we do not play politics.

We are about 15 million and we live in Egypt with our Muslim brothers and we want the same rights for Christians and Muslims.

If you look for Christians in high ranks and positions in Parliament, Government, ministers, heads of universities, there are very, very few. This is not right. In spite of this we offer love to all people and we hope that Our Lord will interfere at the appropriate time for the good of Egypt, first, and then for the Muslims and the Christians.

Eleição de Tawadros II como Papa dos coptas
15 million is a lot of people, even if it is a minority. Enough to perhaps even think of forming groups to defend themselves in a violent way. Is that anything the Copts have ever been tempted to do?
Never, never! We don’t need to defend our rights by fighting. This is in the Bible. At the time of the crucifixion when St. Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus He said to him: No.

This is not our way. We defend ourselves by prayer and fasting, and asking Jesus Christ to interfere and we have the faith that He has already interfered, and all for the good of those who love Jesus Christ.

How has the election of Pope Tawadros been received by the Copts, and is he prepared to face the challenges ahead?
His election was received in a very happy way, we are all happy. Even the process, of election and of voting for our new Pope, with the testimony not only from Egyptians, but from the whole world, even from Muslims, was run in a very democratic and pure way.

There is no fighting for this position. To be a Patriarch is a responsibility, more than a position or a dignity, and the first candidates are all good, they are all suitable for the position. They are all leaders in the Church, monks who have already died to the World, who love poverty, live in chastity, are unmarried, want nothing for themselves, they only want to serve the Lord and the Church till the end of their lives, this is the only thing they want.

So we choose these 17 at first, then vote and narrow it down to three. Then the Pope is chosen from the altar ballot, after the liturgy, by a young child. When he chose Pope Tawadros the II we were all happy, because this is the choice of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our Faith. Even his name means “The Gift of God”, so he is the gift of God to our Church, this is our faith.

Even this process is described in the Bible, in the Book of Acts, chapter 1, when the disciples want to chose a replacement for Judas, who betrayed Jesus, they do the same steps. They see that they have 120 people, all of them have been found good. They have a criterion, men who have accompanied them from the beginning, since Jesus’ baptism by John until now. Then they propose two, then they pray to the Lord and they cast the lots, which land on Mathias, and he is counted as one of the 12. So these rules are in the Bible and we are happy with them.

Now, is he prepared for the challenges? Well, first of all, as he was chosen by Jesus Christ, of course he is prepared. We have examples in our recent history. Pope Cyril the VI was chosen by the Lord and he was suitable and prepared to deal with Gamal Abdel Nasser. Pope Shenouda III worked with Sadat and Mubarak and he was very well prepared for that. So we have the faith that Pope Tawadros II is well prepared.

He is a scientific man, a pharmacist, he is well educated, a good leader, he has an open mind. He worked for a long time with one of the elders of the Church, Anba Pachomius, so he is well trained and he has a lot of experience. Besides that he has the Lord supporting him, all the clergy supporting him and the love of the faithful all over the world, so he is well prepared.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed today (16 January 2013) for Christian Unity. Is this wish for unity, which has been expressed by the Catholic Church many times, shared by Pope Tawadros and the Coptic Church?
Of course! The prayer for unity and communion and solidarity of the churches is very important, and this did not start with Pope Benedict or Pope Tawadros, it started a long time ago, in the time of Cyril VI, and of Pope Shenouda, there were a lot of meetings.

We have to understand first that there are a lot of differences between the churches, that began in the fifth and sixth centuries, so to solve them all we need time, lots of meetings, and this is important, but the most important is to pray. This is the most important step, all the churches need to pray for the unity of the church.

But at the level of the Christians themselves, we love each other. We love the Catholics, the Protestants, all the people, and we respect each other. The hope of unity is not only our hope, it is the hope of Jesus himself. As He said in his prayer before the crucifixion, in John 17, He said to the Lord: “Keep through your Name those who you have given me, that they may be one as We are one”. This is the hope of Jesus, that we may be one as He is one with His Father.

So we hope that the time will come when we will be one Church, because the Church is the body of Christ and He is the head of this Church.

Ícone copta 
All the changes there have been in Egypt, is the situation for Christians better or worse since the fall of Mubarak?
The situation of Christians is nearly the same. We have to be honest. We hear about churches destroyed and burned. Women are kidnapped and after a time we are told that they became Muslims and got married, this is a shame, something that hurts the hearts of the families. This is something difficult for the church.

Every now and then they tell us that it will all be controlled, that the law will take the upper hand, we are all under the law, and even after investigations nothing changes, everything stays the same. We are in a time of change, we hope that in the future when everything is settled, things will be better, not only for Christians, but for all Egyptians.

How do you see the future of the Christian communities in other countries?
The future of the church and of the communities is in the hand of God, this is our Faith. The shepherd of the Church is Jesus Christ. There are changes at the church level and changes and challenges at the political level. This is life. People depart and others become leaders. The ones who depart, like Pope Shenouda and the Patriarch of Syria, for example, they are saints, and all are very good.

We are expecting more from the new leaders, this is our hope, we expect more for our churches and we expect more for the unity of the churches. We ask the Lord to give them more wisdom about how to deal with the challenges and the political changes happening nowadays. In our liturgy we pray, “As it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be”, so the changes will be for good.

Is there a sense of solidarity amongst Middle Eastern Christians, or is the fact that there are so many different communities and churches an obstacle?
To some extent the differences are an obstacle. We are not so close to each other. People do not follow the events in different countries. But at the level of the leaders they are starting on the way to solidarity and unity.

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