[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Egypt has announced a landmark partnership with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library) to advance co-operation in the art, science, culture, peace-building, dialogue and the combating of extremism. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a modern organisation designed to “recapture the spirit” of the ancient library of Alexandria – one of the world’s earliest such institution.
The original library was founded by Ptolemy I in 288 BC; and suffered numerous attacks before disappearing in the seventh century. Julius Caesar is said to have set fire to it during a civil war in 48 BC; it was attacked by Aurelian between AD 270 and 275; the Coptic Pope Theophilus outlawed it as a pagan temple in 391; and there are claims that it was destroyed during the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642.
The modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina was opened in October 2002 and has shelf-space for eight million books. It was created “to recapture the spirit of the original Library of Alexandria as a centre for learning, dialogue, and rationality,” Archbishop Mouneer said. Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast was chosen by Alexander the Great to be the capital of his empire in 320 BC. “It soon became the most powerful and influential city in the region,” Archbishop Mouneer said, adding that the original library “functioned as an academy, research centre, and library,” he said that “the great thinkers of the age flocked to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas.”
The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, under the leadership of Dr Ismail Serageldin, “is now playing a very significant role in dialogue, enlightenment and scientific research in the Middle Eastern region as well as the rest of the world,” Archbishop Mouneer said.
The Anglican Gosour Culture Centre in Cairo and Arkan Centre in Alexandria are working to promote national unity in Egypt among Christian and Muslim youth through music, art and sport programmes as part of the diocese’s bridge-building and peace-making initiatives. “I believe that this partnership [with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina] will enhance all these programs, which will shape the future of Egypt,” Archbishop Mouneer said.