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Church quits National Dialogue

Nader Shukry

25 Jan 2013 4:29 pm

The representatives of the three largest Churches in Egypt—the Coptic Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Evangelical—have taken a decision to quit the National Dialogue sponsored by President Mursi, owing to what they described as the futility of the effort

The representatives of the three largest Churches in Egypt—the Coptic Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Evangelical—have taken a decision to quit the National Dialogue sponsored by President Mursi, owing to what they described as the futility of the effort. 
The three Churches issued a joint official statement declaring that they took the decision to quit after a thorough study of all aspects of the situation. 
The statement declared that: “The Churches had responded to the President’s invitation to participate in a national dialogue, basing upon their firm belief in dialogue as a major element in fostering national cohesion, building trust, and aborting division and fragmentation among Egyptians. Accordingly, the Church actively took part in the National Dialogue, and presented relevant proposals to foster sympathy and mutual understanding among Egyptians.”
Not yielding the desired result
“Major among the proposals presented to the National Dialogue,” the Church statement said, “was a memo that cited a proposal offered by the three Churches on amendments to the new Egyptian constitution, to build consensus and to render the constitution acceptable to many who had rejected it.
“The Church, in its capacity as a national institution, has always been eager to positively participate in dialogues on the national level, with the aim of consolidating values common among Egyptians, and enhancing social responsibility.”
In the current case however, the statement said, the Church found out that the National Dialogue was not yielding the desired result because some of its members were not abiding by its decisions; and because of statements by senior State officials to the effect that decisions taken through the National dialogue were in no way binding.”
Moreover, according to the statement, the dialogue had lost its diversity due to the withdrawal of some members and because several sectors of Egyptians refused to participate in the first place.
The statement concluded: “Our decision to withdraw from the National Dialogue does not mean that we intend to isolate ourselves from national affairs, nor that we should stop serving the homeland. It means—first and foremost—that our patriotism, faith, and conscience dictate that participation should be in serious dialogue that gathers under its umbrella Egyptians—all Egyptians—to openly work together on a well-defined agenda, with absolute commitment to abide by the outcome of the dialogue. This especially applies in the case of the most important issue currently at hand: the amendment of some articles in the new constitution. This is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without consensus and commitment on the part of all political groups, parties and civic organisations.”
The statement was signed by Sameh Fawzy and Suzie Nashed from the Coptic Orthodox Church, Father Rafiq Greiche from the Catholic Church, and Rev. Rifaat Fathy from the Evangelical Church.
Disillusioned
In the wake of the referendum on the new Egyptian constitution last month, which voted in an Islamist constitution and which was widely rejected by the non-Islamist tides in Egypt, President Mursi invited all those who had objected to the constitution to a wide-scale national dialogue. The Church, which had withdrawn its representatives from the predominantly Islamist Constituent Assembly which rushed through the Islamist draft constitution while flagrantly overruling all non-Islamist sectors defying consensus, agreed to participate in the National Dialogue.
The Coptic public had been increasingly disillusioned with the Islamist hegemony over the National Dialogue, and the fact that neither the Islamist political forces nor the President are in any way committed to the outcome of the dialogue. Farid Ismail of the legal committee of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party declared that the outcome of the National Dialogue would be placed before Parliament, and will be promptly defeated by the Islamist-majority house. And the President indefinitely postponed a meeting with the secular political forces who had declared they would ask the President for official commitment to their demands in the National Dialogue.  
Fake legitimacy
Rev. Rifaat Fathy says that the objections cited by the seculars in the National Dialogue against the new law for election of the House of Representatives, as well as their defence of the right of women to adequate representation in parliament have been thrown to the wind by the Islamist forces. “This is a sign that bodes ill,” Rev. Rifaat says. “The secular demands have been promptly overruled. The Church is not involved in political demands; its main concern is the new constitution; it looks that its concerns on that front will be overruled too.
“If our participation in the dialogue was a mere formality to endow it with legitimacy,” Fr Rifaat warned, “we should have quit: which is what we finally decided to do.” 
The Coptic and rights activist Sameh Fawzy fully agrees with Rev. Rifaat. “The Church is not into politics,” he says. “The main issue is the constitution.” 
“We may be looking,” Mr Fawzy says, “at an upcoming parliament that will have minimal, or none at all, women and Coptic representation. “This speaks loads for the outcome of the National Dialogue.”
“There is general discontent among Copts,” Fr Rafiq Greiche told Watani, “toward the National Dialogue which is increasingly disrespectful of its non-Islamist participants. It is catering to the Islamist streams and sideling all others.” The Islamists, Fr Rafiq insisted, appear to be legalising their hegemony through the National Dialogue which, on the face of it, is the embodiment of democracy but is in effect a way to entrench Islamist hegemony and endow it with legitimacy.”  
Watani International
25 January 2013


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