WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. should work with the international community to help Egyptians end violence, restore the rule of law and build an inclusive democracy in their country, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
In an Aug. 23 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, urged a path of dialogue and reconciliation that promotes peace, human rights and religious freedom in Egypt.
“Amidst the tragedy of violence and bloodshed in Egypt, our conference has a special concern for the Christian community,” Bishop Pates wrote. “Extremists have scapegoated Christians, blaming them for the current state of affairs, and viciously attacked Christian churches, institutions and communities, destroying property and terrorizing people. The destruction of Christian churches and the targeting of Christians are unacceptable.”
Bishop Pates said U.S. bishops join Pope Francis in praying for “all the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering.” He echoed the words of Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, who commended the Muslims in Egypt who stood with Christians and defended their churches and institutions. Bishop Pates also expressed concern for Egypt’s poor and refugees, who are particularly vulnerable in a time of upheaval.
“We urge the United States to preserve, and even increase, humanitarian and economic assistance,” Bishop Pates wrote. “Poor and vulnerable Egyptians should not pay the price of the political turmoil and violence gripping their nation.”
In an Aug. 23 memo to all U.S. bishops, Bishop Pates and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), pointed out that CRS is working in Egypt to help those most affected by the violence and unrest.
CRS is helping rehabilitate church schools that have been burned and looted. The agency’s ongoing work includes educating refugee children; aiding young women vulnerable to sex trafficking; helping people find work during the recent years of turmoil and economic uncertainty; and fostering dialogue and acceptance among religions.
In 2012, CRS began a program with the Coptic Catholic Church bringing together thousands of Christians and Muslims.