The articles in this RNSAW show a growing anti-Western sentiment. Statements of people like Jerry Fallwell and reports such as that of the International Religious Freedom Report create an image that the West is anti-Islamic.
On October 16 I met with a delegation from the Presbyterian Church in the USA. We spoke about a totally distorted report in the Layman, a Presbyterian publication, about the church in Egypt. The delegation not only agreed but gave very little credit to the Layman in general. The RNSAW will later present this report with our comment.
On October 18, 19 and 20 we went with a group of journalists and members of expatriate churches in Cairo to Assiut. We visited locations of the Holy Family, met with Governor Ahmed Hamam Atiya of Assiut and Bishop Thomas of al-Qussia. Governor Ahmed Hamam Atiya welcomes holy family pilgrimages to his region, improved the roads to Christian locations. We saw for ourselves the tremendous improvement of the road leading to the Convent of the Holy Virgin at Durunka. The governor is not very happy with the International Religious Freedom Report and believes this gives a distorted picture of the cooperation between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.
When we entered the governorate we saw a permanent display of photos of pharaonic, Muslim and Christian sites (both the Monastery of al-Muharraq and the convent at Durunka).
Bishop Thomas showed great concern or even fear for a possible war with Iraq. The sentiment in Egypt against the West and Western Christianity is growing and he fears that in a war less educated Egyptians won’t distinguish between Western and Eastern Christians. He fears a war could have a disastrous effect on Egyptian Christians.
Bishop Thomas also told us the security of Christians has improved. Christians have not been subject to physical attacks in the past years but this doesn’t mean the social climate is good. Christians have obtained permits to restore churches but in his diocese the last permit for a new church was given in 1932. Permits for restoration are often not easy to obtain. We saw the cracks in the church of Meir. Father Ishaq showed the papers he had written for a permit which up till now has not been provided.