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
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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.


Palestinian killed by Israeli forces after alleged car ramming

Updated 13 December 2018
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Palestinian killed by Israeli forces after alleged car ramming

  • The Palestinian health ministry said the man was shot in the Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah

RAMALLAH, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank Thursday, the health ministry said, in what the Israeli army called an attempted car ramming.
The Palestinian health ministry said the man, who was not named, was shot in the Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.
The army said in a statement he “attempted to run over” soldiers, lightly injuring one.
“Security forces who were present at the scene fired toward the terrorist and neutralized him,” it added.
Israeli soldiers were seen rushing to the site, with multiple rounds of live ammunition fired at the target.
The car windows were smashed, a photographer at the scene later said.
The army entered Ramallah several hours earlier searching for the perpetrator of a deadly attack.
Two soldiers were killed and at least two other people — including another soldier — were wounded when an attacker opened fire on them at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank, the army said.
The attacker was believed to have fled to Ramallah.