The recent massive demonstrations in Egypt are causing particular concern for Oslo’s former bishop, who sits on the board of Egypt’s famous library in Alexandria. He’s monitoring the situation in and around the Norwegian-designed library carefully.
“I get frequent updates from the director of the Alexandria Library, Ismail Serageldin. Library employees, students and local residents have formed a human shield around the building in order to protect it,” bishop emeritus Gunnar Stålsett told newspaper Aftenposten.
Stålsett sits on the board of the library and has just been chosen for a new period. “It’s probably because I play a central role in the global alliance of religions working for peace and reconciliation,” Stålsett added.
The head of the board is Suzanna Mubarak, who Stålsett praised for her concerns about peace, as well as the rights of women and children. He thinks she is open to the positive role that religion can play in social and political development.
“I noticed a greater reservation from the president (Hosni Mubarak) on matters of religion. This probably stems from the challenges he feels from the Muslim Brotherhood,” Stålsett told Aftenposten.
The library containts more than 50,000 items concerning freedom of speech and censorship. The 800,000 square-foot building opened in 2002, concluding a 12-year long project. In addition to library functions, the building also houses art galleries and assembly halls. The Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta won the competition to design the new library. This is the firm that also designed Oslo’s new waterfront opera house.
Stålsett is urging Norwegian authorities to contribute more funds to the Alexandria Library.