Exclusive: Pope Tawadros II warns against ‘emptying’ Middle East of Christians, sees hope in Saudi reforms

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Pope Tawadros II talks regional politics, status of Copts and his views on reforms in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo: Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas talking with Pope Tawadros II in Cairo. (AN Photo: Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 05 December 2018

Exclusive: Pope Tawadros II warns against ‘emptying’ Middle East of Christians, sees hope in Saudi reforms

  • Coptic pope said recent attacks on Copts are an attack on Egyptian unity
  • Tawadros sees hope in the reforms of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is looking forward to visiting Saudi Arabia

CAIRO: Coptic Pope Tawadros II warned of the danger of emptying the Middle East of Christians, in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“This emptying act is against nature,” the pope said, adding that recent attacks on Copts and their places of worship are an attack on Egyptian unity.

“Our regions have been established with the existence of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. What happened in some countries like Syria and Iraq is painful.”

Tawadros spoke about the damage inflicted on the Copts in Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule from 2012 to 2013. “The migration of Christians in Egypt resulted from the circumstances that took place,” he said. “Christians feared for their lives and fled the country. When the country regained its stability, a lot of them returned to Egypt. Christian emigration rates have dropped significantly.”

Tawadros, who is looking forward to visiting Saudi Arabia soon at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said he personally follows the “positive developments” taking place there under his reforms. He said the crown prince’s meetings with religious, political and cultural figures around the world encompass “a lot of hope” are “in the interest of Saudi Arabia and contribute to human development.”

Tawadros visited the Vatican in 2013, the first visit of a Coptic pope in 40 years, and his last trip was in July this year. “It is a good relationship based on friendship and love with Pope Francis,” he said.

“There is a dialogue committee between us and the Vatican that meets annually.”

In the interview, conducted in Cairo and published to mark the crown prince’s tour that included other Arab states and Argentina for the G20 Summit, the pope also shared his views of the region.

Tawadros views Palestine as an “occupied country” and said he hopes a “spirit of understanding prevails” between Israelis and Palestinians so that Jerusalem can be a capital for both states “and peace reigns in the region.”

The interview appears in full tomorrow in the print version of Arab News.

Tutankhamun relic sells for $6 mn in London despite Egyptian outcry

Updated 04 July 2019

Tutankhamun relic sells for $6 mn in London despite Egyptian outcry

  • Christie’s auction house sold the relic for £4,746,250
  • Angry Egyptian officials wanted Thursday’s sale halted and the treasure returned

LONDON: A 3,000-year-old quartzite head of Egyptian “Boy King” Tutankhamun was auctioned off for $6 million on Thursday in London despite an outcry from Cairo.
Christie’s auction house sold the 28.5-centimeter (11-inch) relic for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros) at one of its most controversial auctions in years.
No information about the buyer was disclosed.
The famous pharaoh’s finely-chiselled face — its calm eyes and puffed lips emoting a sense of eternal peace — came from the private Resandro Collection of ancient art that Christie’s last auctioned off 2016 for £3 million.
But angry Egyptian officials wanted Thursday’s sale halted and the treasure returned.
Christie’s decision “contradicts international agreements and conventions,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday..
Former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass told AFP that the piece appears to have been “stolen” in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex just north of Luxor.
“We think it left Egypt after 1970 because in that time other artefacts were stolen from Karnak Temple,” Hawass said.
Christie’s countered that Egypt had never before expressed the same level of concern about an item whose existence has been “well known and exhibited publicly” for many years.
“The object is not, and has not been, the subject of an investigation,” it said in a statement to AFP.
The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years.
Its oldest attribution from 1973-74 places it in the collection of Prince Wilhelm of Thurn and Taxi in modern-day Germany.
Yet that account was called into doubt by a report from the Live Science news site last month suggesting that Wilhelm never owned the piece.
Wilhelm was “not a very art-interested person,” his niece Daria told the news site.
A journalist and art historian who knew Wilhelm told Live Science site that the prince had no arts collection at all.
Tutankhamun is thought to have become a pharaoh at the age of nine and to have died about 10 years later.
His rule would have probably passed without notice were it not for the 1922 discovery by Britain’s Howard Carter of his nearly intact tomb.
The lavish find revived interest in ancient Egypt and set the stage for subsequent battles over ownership of cultural masterpieces unearthed in colonial times.
Tutankhamun became commonly known as King Tut and made into the subject of popular songs and films.
International conventions and the British government’s own guidance restrict the sale of works that were known to have been stolen or illegally dug up.
The British Museum has been wrangling for decades with Greece over its remarkable room full of marble Parthenon friezes and sculptures.
Egypt’s own campaign to recover lost art gained momentum after numerous works went missing during the looting that accompanied former president Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power in 2011.
Cairo has managed to regain hundreds of looted and stolen artefacts by working with both auction houses and international cultural groups.
But Egypt has been unable to substantiate its case with firm proof that the Tutankhamun bust was illegally obtained.
Christie’s told AFP that it would “not sell any work where there isn’t clear title of ownership.”