Pope Tawadros II has said that the State should stand up to its responsibility to indiscriminately protect all Egyptians. The law should be implemented, the new pope said, so that those who threaten the security of peaceful citizens should be taken to task
“It is unacceptable,” he said, “that groups of Egyptians should take the law in their own hands; it is the State that should be imposing the rule of law.”
The Pope was commenting on the assault of Salafi Muslims against a Church-owned building under construction in the district of Mantai in Shubral-Kheima, north of Cairo. Last Monday, a few hundred hardline Muslims broke into the site, occupied it, and raised a banner denoting it as “al-Rahman mosque”. The following day, the squatters were dispersed by the security forces and the sign removed, but they threatened to be back on Friday after noon prayers. Until Wednesday, the Salafis were back into the site several times, but were every time chased away by the security forces.
This drove Shubral-Kheima bishopric as well as several Coptic lawyers to file complaints with the public prosecutor against the assailants, demanding that the site under attack as well as all Coptic-owned property in the neighbourhood should be protected. They demanded immediate investigations into the assault, and to empower the Church to carry on with the construction work on the building, which as to be a community centre under the name of the Holy Virgin and St Abanoub. The proceedings were filed by Sameh Saad, Ibrahim Edward, Hani Ramsis, Nabil Azmi, Karam Ghobrial and Amgad Murad.
On Wednesday evening, the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) held a demonstration in Shubra to protest against the Salafi ‘invasion’ of the projected community centre, and issued a statement denouncing the series of attacks against churches and Coptic property. “The State of the law has been replaced by a State of outlaw and crime,” the statement said.
Today passed peacefully, though, since the security authorities were ready with forces carried by four central security trucks that stood near the site where the building under construction stands. Anba Morqos, Bishop of Shubral-Kheima, said the security forces succeeded in maintaining peace following Friday prayers, and that the bishopric awaited a order by Qalyubiya governor Adel Zayed tomorrow to resume building.
For his part, Pope Tawadros said that the reoccurrence of assaults against churches and Church-owned buildings while no official action is taken against the assailants only serves to embolden the extremists. “Churches are houses of God,” he said, “that work to spread love, peace, and tolerance. They threaten no one.”
The State should work to enact the unified law for places of worship, he said.
9 November 2012