Pope’s Egypt visit offers chance to improve Catholic-Muslim ties

Pope Francis. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2017

Pope’s Egypt visit offers chance to improve Catholic-Muslim ties

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will make a trip to Egypt next month, the Vatican said on Saturday, giving the pontiff another opportunity to promote better relations between Catholics and Muslims.
Francis has accepted an invitation to Cairo on April 28-29 from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Catholic bishops, the pope of the Coptic church of Alexandria and the country’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, the Vatican said in a statement.
Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Sectarian violence sometimes erupts over disputes on issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.
Francis has put great emphasis on improving inter-faith relations since his election in 2013, and a year ago he met the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb in the Vatican.
That meeting unfroze relations after Al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university center, cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults toward Islam from Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict.
Benedict had denounced what he called “a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target” following a bomb attack outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 23 people.
A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December.
Pope Francis has urged an end to what he called a “genocide” against Christians in the Middle East, but he has also said it is wrong to equate Islam with violence.
Looking to set an example for Europe, he has taken in Muslim refugees fleeing the war in Syria.


Taliban kill 6 members of same Afghan family

Updated 16 min 48 sec ago

Taliban kill 6 members of same Afghan family

  • But Taliban deny any involvement, saying the attack Saturday was triggered by a personal dispute
  • The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan officials said Sunday that the Taliban executed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country’s north.
The Taliban denied any involvement, saying the attack Saturday was triggered by a personal dispute.
However, local Afghan officials said the family was accused by the Taliban of working in prostitution. The insurgents sentenced them to death for immoral acts, then stormed the house and opened fire, according to Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab province’s governor.
The infant girl’s mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child’s legs had to be amputated, the spokesman said.
He said Afghan security forces deployed to the village early Sunday and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital.
He said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. The ensuing gunbattle killed three Taliban members, who Bedar said were involved in the family’s killing.
The Taliban control the village in Andkhoy district where the killings took place, making it difficult to accurately determine what happened, he added.
The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan.
Locals in the area also disputed the accounts of prostitution. Instead, they claimed that a member of the slain family was a former Taliban militant who recently joined the peace process, according to Andkhoy district chief Sultan Mohammad Sanjer.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
The Taliban continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces, even as they hold peace talks with the US and have given the US envoy a document outlining their offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan.
Scores of Afghan civilians have also been killed in the crossfire and by roadside bombs planted by militants.

Related