'God has a solution for Egypt' - bishop

Bishop Angaelos says there is more to the Egyptian crisis than religious divides, but reconciliation between different faiths is vital.

A UK Coptic Orthodox leader gave an address in Westminster this week, in which he underlined the importance of bridging religious divides between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop in the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, spoke at the Houses of Parliament before the Chairman of the MENA Group, MP Mark Field and other representatives from the Conservative Party to promote the importance of working towards a peaceful resolution in the North African nation.

Egypt has struggled with an unstable political system for years, made weaker following the resignation of President Mubarak in February 2011.

Minority religious groups, including Coptic Christians, are among those who frequently suffer violent attacks and abuse.  The World Watch List ranks Egypt as the 22nd worst country for Christian persecution across the globe.

During a hearing in Washington last December, Bishop Angaelos told congress that the persecution of religious minorities in Egypt "has not manifested itself solely in physical attacks, but frequently been embedded in process and policy, then translated into dealings with citizens on unequal grounds," and called for better treatment for all Egyptian citizens and fairer laws.

He believes that there is more to be done before we can expect a peaceful resolution for the troubled country.

In his address in London on Monday, the bishop outlined the challenges faced by religious minorities in Egypt, while also highlighting the vitality of fostering unity within the fractured nation.

"Reconciliation must happen through pragmatic and intentional leadership, bringing people together," he stressed.

"These efforts will then instil a sense of unity, cohesion and national identity so that people no longer focus on one's religion, but see the Egyptian in the other....It is only then that we can begin to advocate for one another," he declared.

Many Coptic Christians are concerned about their future in Egypt, where they frequently suffer violence and abuse.AP

"This is about advocating for all; about unity, individual identity, and the importance of that individual as a member of a nation state."

The bishop was clear that Egypt is not just struggling with a religious divide, but that many other factors feed into the instability, including high levels of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, a decline in foreign investment, and a low cultural view of women.

It is imperative that these issues are addressed, the bishop urged, noting that: "There is only one way ahead, and that is reconciliation, there is no other way.

"People must live side by side and there must be healing."

He was optimistic about Egypt's future, however, adding: "We are all held in the hands of a God who is much more mighty than anyone who tries to create harm.

"We are confident, through his graciousness, love and vigilance over his whole creation, that God has a solution for Egypt."