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The Pope in Egypt: Mounir Farag, “he managed to bring the Country out of its isolation”

Mounir Farag, surgeon and University Professor, drew a balance of Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt two months after the visit. "No visit by a head of State has ever had such a strong impact”, he said. “The Pope managed to bring Egypt out of its isolation and encouraged other Countries to cooperate at various levels starting with the commitment to put an end to terrorism”

In Egypt Pope Francis made a “miracle.” He succeeded in doing what no Head of Government ever had the courage to do in the past six years, namely, to help Egypt overcome the isolation that caused so much suffering among the Egyptian people. The memory of the visit is still thriving among the population at large, grateful to Francis for his decision to visit the Country at one of the most delicate and difficult times in its history. After two months, it can be said that the overall balance of the visit of Pope Francis in Cairo is completely positive, Mounir Farag  told journalists during a meeting in Rome. The Egyptian surgeon, former regional Councillor for Health strategies and systems at WHO EMRO, professor at Senghor University in Alexandria for all French-speaking Countries, a family man, member of the Focolari Movement, Ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Professor Farag retraced the three moments that characterised the Pope’s visit to Egypt.

The first, most complex moment: the relations with the Islam of al-Alzhar. “With the Pope’s passage – Farag said – Christians have gained greater strength in bearing witness to their faith through forgiveness, typical of Christianity. At the same time, Muslim citizens have become their defenders, often voicing remarks on radical Islam that Christians don’t dare to say.” The next step expected to be made by Islamic institutions in particular, is to do more than stating that “terrorism is unrelated with Islam.” It’s a process that only Muslims can undertake, which requires a coordinated, committed line of action. In fact, just as it would be wrong to speak of a “modern” or “ancient” Islam, it is equally wrong to distinguish between a “European” and a Middle Eastern Islam, for no such thing exists. There is one and only Islam, thus it is necessary – the Professor pointed out – “to open our eyes and review education programs, to monitor sites and places as well as mosques, especially those in Europe and in the rest of the Western world, so that whoever has a role of preacher and teacher may speak in accordance with the rightful interpretation of the Koranic text.”

In a word, it is necessary to isolate as much as possible “the Qutbist, Salafist and Wahabi theological and indoctrinating movements” that manipulate the minds of young people in particular.

Only few days have gone by since the tragic attack of May 26 perpetrated by a commando of 10 men against a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox pilgrims to Minya, in the south of Egypt.

The organization and the spread of radical ideology is like a web that risks disappearing and turning into a “starfish.”

“It operates at internal level as well as regionally and internationally. If you cut a branch it grows somewhere else. Internal activity is manipulated externally. If we follow the terrorist thread starting from the perpetrators of the attacks, we will see that it leads us to the ISIS headquarters in Libya, then to some other Country in the Middle East and then it will gradually bring us to the Western world. All threads are tangled together. It’s all interconnected, complicated and complex.” Hence the approach to the phenomenon of terrorism should be equally serious. Professor Farag called on Europe not to be “naïve”, he appealed to media outlets to “dig deeper. It’s never too late to be formed and to inform.” He asked Christians to use the gift of “wisdom in the charity of the truth called for by Pope Benedict.”

Another aspect of Pope Francis’ visit to Cairo is his relationship with Coptic Orthodox Christians and with Pope Tawadros. The leaders of the two Churches released a joint Declaration in which, inter alia, they call for a serious commitment to put an end to the tradition of “rebaptism”, a passage that sparked off controversies. In this respect, Mounir Farag said that during a recent general synod the Coptic Orthodox Church created various Commissions, one of which is tasked with promoting joint efforts to accelerate the pace of ending rebaptisms. He added: “In his recent visits to Milan, England, Austria and Russia, Pope Tawadros reiterated, in different contexts and to different people, the fruits left by Pope Francis’ visit.”

Finally, there is the impact of the visit on the life of the entire Country. The government, the President, the Egyptian people, cherish the living memory of the courageous step made by the Pope. Only few days had passed since the terror attack against Coptic Christians in Alessandria and Tanta. Nonetheless the Pope decided not to cancel the visit. “It was of great support to Egypt in this difficult situation”, Farag recalled.

“No visit by a head of State has had such a strong impact.”

At all levels, not only for Christians. The visit was followed with great attention by media outlets, by the people in the streets. “The Pope didn’t make preaches and what he said was marked by credibility, it was clearly perceivable that his words and deeds reflect who the person he is what he has at heart. He accomplished a miracle: he managed to bring Egypt out of its isolation; he encouraged other Countries to join in and collaborate at various levels, starting from the serious commitment to end terrorism.”

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