Were the Coptic Christians

Coptic Pope warns against expulsion of Christians

DW: Why is the inauguration of a new Coptic church in Düsseldorf so important?

Pope Tawadros II: The inauguration of this church is practically the last step to officially prove the existence of the church for the community. Such a step is unique for a church, it is like a birth certificate.

This building is a gift from the Catholic Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki to the Coptic Christians. What does that mean from your point of view?

The number of Copts arriving in Germany is not particularly high, but it is increasing. We assume that there are now around 1000 families. So there was a need for a larger meeting place. And with a view to our financial possibilities, the Catholic Church has offered us this building so that in the future it can be a place where all Copts can gather.

Over the past few years, Copts have repeatedly been the target of terrorist attacks in Egypt. How are the living conditions for Egyptian Copts today?

The situation has improved significantly. In Egypt we are dealing with two fundamental disputes: it is about the fight against terrorism; second, we are fighting for progress, for development. A good deal has already been achieved in the fight against terrorism. And it is not just the Copts who have fallen victim to terrorist attacks. The terror in Egypt is directed against the army and the police, actually against all Egyptians. What the Egyptian armed forces are doing against terrorism is admirable. I expect this fight to be over soon.

What is your message to the Egyptian Copts living in Germany?

Copts have found a new homeland here, a new environment. The Church tries to ensure that the old connections and ties with the Egyptian homeland do not tear off. Basically, they remain Egyptians in their hearts. So we have a strong bond between Egyptian Copts in all parts of the world. My words to them are: Live in the society in which you are. Integrate yourself and enjoy all the advantages of western civilization and society in Germany! Learn the language, this is an important topic, but don't forget your Arabic language and the Coptic traditions that you learned in Egypt. Love your fellow human beings and build good relationships with one another, because in the end we are all human.

Christians in the Near and Middle East have also recently been victims of displacement. Some western states have taken in many of the refugees. Do you think that Christians should better stay in their home countries and try to improve the situation there? Or do you encourage them to emigrate?

Christianity has its origins in the Middle East. Against this background, I see the expulsion of Christians from this region ultimately as a threat to security. And not only in the Middle East, but also in the Mediterranean region. This has repercussions as far as Europe, and anyway on the Arab states. So, evicting Christians from their home countries is a very big mistake. Society in the Middle East is shaped by the existence of Jews, the presence of Christians and the presence of Muslims. They all live in the region, and it would be much better to give all of these people a future in their home countries.

Pope Tawadros II is the head of the Coptic Christians. On Sunday (May 12th) he visited the North Rhine-Westphalian state capital Düsseldorf to consecrate the bunker church in the Heerdt district there as a Coptic Orthodox church. The interview was conducted by Hicham Driouich.