Egyptian Government Restores Antiquated Church

From Ahram Online, official promotion of Egypt’s Christian heritage:

On Wednesday, Mostafa Amin, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), inaugurated the Abbey Church of the Apostles in Atfih town in Giza governorate after the completion of its restoration with a budget that reached LE6 million.

The opening came within the framework of a drive by the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) to save the Coptic shrine and to open more sites to tourists, in order to encourage the tourism industry.

The church, like other Coptic and Islamic monuments located in rural areas, had suffered serious damage, including from high sub-soil water levels, high levels of humidity, and an outdated and decayed sewerage system installed 100 years ago.

It is one thing to show respect to buildings, another thing to honor people and their right to freedom of belief and expression. Negative examples of the latter have proliferated over the past two years, but this news is nonetheless encouraging, especially as it takes place in a diocese which experienced the first sectarian tensions after the revolution.

There, a church was burned due to village family tensions and rumors of witchcraft practiced inside. The army stood by and watched, but amid outrage and protests the government sought reconciliation, part of which was an agreement to rebuild the church. Whether or not the two efforts are related is not stated in the article.

Is the Egyptian government schizophrenic, then? Maybe. The current cabinet is composed of many technocrats joined by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. While many ministers carry out the functions of state as before, others appear to be actively ignoring incidents against Copts or pursuing legal action against them for defamation of Islam. The Ministers of the Interior, Justice, and the Public Prosecutor are not members of the Brotherhood, but were appointed by Morsi. Other ministers he simply inherited.

But the Minister of Antiquities, under whose authority this restoration project falls, was also a Morsi appointment. He is considered an Islamist, but is an expert in both the Coptic and Islamic heritage of Egypt. Was this project an ongoing one whose file he received near completion, or an example of his own initiative? Either way, it is a needed break from the ongoing flow of bad news.

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