LONDON: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior figure in the Church of England, has called on Ethiopia to restart talks with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The Most Rev. Justin Welby was speaking at an event in Egypt inaugurating a new episcopal province on Friday, where he said that natural resources “were not the sole property of individual countries.”
The GERD, damming a stretch of the Blue Nile, has been a source of tension between the three African states for some time, with Egypt and Sudan fearing the impact it will have on vital water supplies downstream.
The dam will be Africa’s largest source of hydroelectricity, but Cairo and Khartoum have accused Addis Ababa of breaking international law by continuing to fill it without their approval.
There have even been suggestions that Egypt could launch airstrikes against Ethiopia if a resolution is not met.
“I appeal to the Ethiopian government to show that they will use the dam responsibly, caring for their neighbors downstream,” Welby said. “Please show that this dam is not a reason to worry.”
The new episcopal province of the Anglican Church Welby inaugurated is based in Alexandria, covering Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Eritrea, Somalia, Mauritania, Chad and Djibouti, and serving around 40,000 worshipers.
“The province covers a huge area, from the waves of the Atlantic to the beaches of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Welby said in his sermon at All Saint’s Cathedral in Cairo. “A thousand years ago, this area preserved medicine and learning. Today, Egypt has again found its historic place as a place of meeting, of refuge.”
Egypt has a long history of Christian worship, with more than 9 million worshipers living there. Most are Coptic Christians, a religious minority that has faced persecution in recent years. However, Welby praised the efforts of the North African country to improve relations between its disparate religious communities.
“Christians are to be part of a church that is told to conquer with love and peace — never, never by a sword, a bomb or a plot,” Welby said. “And I say to our dear, dear friends from the Islamic community: How often have Christians got this wrong? Our history is one of the tragic sin of force. Let us be people of peace together.”
The archbishop is expected to visit a refugee charity over the weekend, Refuge Egypt, as part of his trip, before returning to the UK on Monday.