New hope in Egypt
It was with a sense of relief and new hope that local Coptic-Catholic bishops in Egypt reacted to the latest political developments in Egypt.
In a meeting with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Coptic-Catholic bishops of Assiut and Minya, Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna, described the current situation in the country.
"Under the Muslim Brotherhood, an unprecedented polarization developed. The Christians were accused of being against Islam. Churches were attacked, police stations burnt down. Moderate Muslims stood up to protect us," Bishop Kyrillos William said.
"Now, Egyptians are standing together. They are turning against extremism and terrorism."
Bishop Botros Hanna of Minya also expressed his relief when talking to ACN staff, "We have the same problems and hopes as our Muslim neighbors. Together we can find solutions. It is absolutely essential that we respect one another and keep talking."
Bishop Hanna went on to explain, "There is no war between the religions in my country, but there is a conflict between extremists and the Egyptian people."
The bishop expressed his great concern at the enormous social differences in Egypt and the large number of people who were illiterate; both factors played into the hands of the extremists.
Bishop Hanna said, "Egypt needs education, schools, respect for human rights and the rights of minorities."
Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna declared their optimism that a new constitution would take account of the interest of all Egyptians.
According to the bishops, representatives of the respected Islamic al-Azhar University in Cairo and the Christian Churches were involved in its formulation, with an aim to separate religion and the state.
Around 85% of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims and 10 to 15% are Christians.
The number of Catholics is approximately 200,000.