10 June 2011
The Maspero Youth Union held a press conference in Cairo on Friday 10 June to decide on what action to take regarding the suspended Maspero protests. These protests were held last March and May against the injustices inflicted upon Copts and the discrimination they are subjected to in Egypt.
The Copts—joined by hundreds of sympathetic Muslims—had twice held sits-in in front of the Egyptian TV building on the Nile bank in Maspero, Cairo. The first, which ran for some nine days last March, was staged in the wake of the demolition and burning of a church in the village of Sole in Etfeeh, Giza. The second lasted for 13 days following the atrocious attack against Imbaba Copts last May.
In both protests the Copts submitted their demands for measures to abolish the injustices against them to the government, and suspended the sit-in for a month pending official measures taken in that direction.
Coptic demands centred on bringing the culprits in crimes against Copts to justice, trying the Copts detained on account of these attacks before civil—not military—courts, reopening closed churches, and approving the licence to build the Maghagha bishopric church which is in its third year awaiting approval. The Copts also demanded a unified law for places of worship and one against discrimination. In response, the Cabinet formed the National Justice Committee (NJC) to work to confront sectarian sedition and monitor measures taken to confront violations.
The Maspero Youth Union (MYU) decided on Friday to extend the suspension of protests till next month.
They criticised, however, the performance of the NJC and described it as “weak and merely cosmetic”. It has so far, according to member of the political office of the MYU Ramy Kamel, done nothing to discuss the bill for the unified law for places of worship, or to draft one to criminalise discrimination.
Another member of the political office of the MYU, Antoine Adel, said that the government had indeed reopened 16 churches and community centres in Zagazig, Minya, Assiut, and Qena, but that 53 others await orders to reopen.
Adel pointed out that the government has so far caught none of the criminals who committed crimes against Copts, whether in case of the New Year Eve explosion at the Church of the Saints in Alexandria, the Sole incident, the Qena crime in which the Salafis cut the ear of a Copt under the pretext of applying Islamic ++hudoud++ or penalties; or in case of Imbaba where only one Salafi was caught.
Reference was made to the file of the disappeared Coptic women, when Bishoi Temri criticised the official obscurity in which such cases are cloaked, even though many of them involve underage women.
Father Filopatir Gamil criticised the government’s failure to keep its promise to reopen the Ain Shams church, and accused officials of applying dual standards where churches and mosques were concerned. While the Ain Shams church was said to be non-licensed and was closed following riots by local Muslims, the mosque across the street had been issued 16 demolition orders by the building authority but still remained open regardless. He rejected the rumours circulated about the proposed unified law for places of worship, which claim that church finances should be subject to official supervision. Fr Filopatir said that churches were financed through the donations of the congregation, and were supervised by church laymen; the State, he said, had nothing to do with church finances.
Finally, it was announced that the protests would be further suspended till next month, to give the government ample opportunity to work on the Coptic demands.