Last week, Pope Francis made a visit to Egypt in which he prompted Muslims to join forces against religious extremism and strengthen relationships with fellow Egyptian Christians.
The Pope’s two-day visit occured only two weeks after two Coptic Orthodox churches were bombed during Palm Sunday festivities, leaving 45 dead. As such, the Pope’s trip to encourage Muslim-Christian interactions in the region was timely and needed.
On Saturday, the second day of the Pope’s trip, the Cairo Defense Air Studium saw 15,000 worshippers gather to witness him celebrate Mass. In other venues, the Pope met with other Christian leaders, encouraging them to be persistent despite the recent sources of discouragement. “Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, and many prophets of destruction and condemnation … may you be the sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony,” the Pope said.
Friday, speaking at Al-Azhar University, the foremost institution for Sunni Muslims, Francis stressed the importance of strong Muslim-Christian relations. While there, he met with Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, and concluded remarks at the International Conference of Peace. In his speech he said that restraining violent behavior would improve relationships between followers of different religions. “In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence,” he said.
In his meeting with the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Francis discussed more ideas on combatting terrorism. The Pope also met with Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The two conceived a 12-point declaration that said, “Let us intensify our unceasing prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and especially in the Middle East.”