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August 11, 2015

From an Egyptian priest to Canadians

Scott Stockdale

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(Toronto) Egypt is at a cross-road in history, both politically and religiously, according to Father Henri Boulad, a Catholic priest who served as the director of the Jesuit Cultural Center in Alexandria and lives in Cairo.

He is a frequent speaker internationally and active on the Internet sharing his spiritual conviction and his vision of the world. He is well known for his straight talk involving the role and impact of religion and spirituality in the world today.

Speaking at the Beit Zatoun in Toronto recently, Father Boulad called upon the West not to give in to cynicism, but to support the aspirations of the Egyptian people for freedom and not ally with religious fundamentalists.

He sees the rise of atheism in Egypt as a reflection of the turmoil and hopelessness the young people of Egypt - both Muslim and Christian - are experiencing.

“For the first time in the history of Egypt, atheism is rising. Egypt is the most religious country in the world. God is part of our thinking. It's unbelievable what's happening. We have two or three million atheists and growing day after day.”

He said the January 25, 2011 revolution that overthrew President Mubarak, was a popular secular Egyptian revolution, mostly of the young people.

“Muslims put the Koran in their pockets and Christians put the cross in their pockets and they said: 'Forget about religion. We want to be a secular country.' People were happy trying to get rid of a dictatorship.”

However, using its powerful organization, Father Boulad said the Muslim Brotherhood took over the microphone and the stage and confiscated the revolution, erecting signs all over Egypt declaring an Islamic revolution. He said President Morsi was elected by fraud as the Muslim Brotherhood said “If you don’t accept our candidate we will burn Egypt.”

Father Boulad said that during Morsi's rule, not only was his regime a religious dictatorship, it was selling the country piece-by-piece to Libya, Hamas, Sudan and Qatar. Moreover, he said there was a gentleman's agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the U.S. to dismantle the Middle East and take the oil and gas from the entire Middle East.

During a visit to Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2013, Father Boulad criticized western support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, singling out the United States, France and Great Britain for their support of the Islamist group, which he said had created a regime far worse than the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak that preceded it.

Because the Egyptian people were no longer willing to tolerate President Morsi's autocratic rule, Father Boulad said that between 30 and 33 million people took to the streets on June 30, 2013, demanding President Morsi's ouster, in what Father Boulad said was the largest demonstration in the history of mankind.

“The economy was falling apart and the people felt cheated. There was no freedom. They were back to the Middle Ages.”

He said that although General Abdel Fattah el- Sisi didn’t want to involve himself, he felt he had no choice but to answer the call of the Egyptian people.

While the western media often characterize this as a military coup, Father Boulad said as long as people are not experiencing the reality, they are speaking out of the blue about another reality.

“They're unwilling to see the reality. The disinformation of the western world is influenced by the evening news which is presented in a biased way.” He said the truth is Sisi has saved Egypt from being a Syria, a Yemen, a Libya or an Iraq.

This reality under President Morsi included the spreading of an ideology of violence and intolerance, Father Boulad said.

“You could hear it coming from the minarets on Friday's and it was in the textbooks at Al Azhar University: they pushed hatred; how to cut the hand and the foot; how to kill someone who left Islam: they should be put to death.”

President el-Sisi has responded to these messages by telling Al Azhar University to stop teaching intolerance and preaching violence against the other, Father Boulad said.

He holds up the example set by the Jesuit Cultural Center of Alexandria – where he was the director for five years – which focuses on dialogue between the people of Egypt, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“The Center (Jesuit Cultural Center of Alexandria) wants to be the center of dialogue, sharing common human values, finding common ground to speak to each other. Christians have the Bible; Muslims have the Quran. Many people have tried religious dialogue but it hasn't worked.”

He cited the fact that 60 per cent of those attending the Jesuit Cultural Center of Alexandria are Muslims and 40 per cent are Christians, as a reason to believe that the message of hope for Egypt is taking root.

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