News that President Mohamed Mursi recently met a delegation of the heads of Orthodox, Catholic, Episcopal and Anglican Churches in Egypt during which the president relayed a message of reassurance for Christians in Egypt raised not a few eyebrows.
The Episcopal Church spokesman, Hany Shukrallah, said the meeting went very well, and the fact that this was the second such meeting since Mursi became president last June was an encouraging initiative from the presidency. Shukrallah said the discussions centred on the recent presidential decisions, the new constitution currently in writing, and the latest sectarian attacks against Copts.
Bishop Yuhanna Qulta of the Coptic Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Shubral-Kheima Anba Morqos were joined by all others in stressing the demand for law enforcement especially in sectarian attacks, as well as putting an end to discriminatory practices in the education system and the media.
Activists and seculars, however, are not so happy with the meeting.
Emad Gad, former MP and an expert with al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, could find no reason or justification for the meeting. “It is an attempt to reduce Coptic representation to the Church, a practice employed for centuries by Egypt’s rulers, and which we have for years deplored since it deliberately ignores Copts as Egyptian citizens entitled to full citizenship rights.” The attempt to define Copts through their Church, Mr Gad told Watani, establishes the State on sectarian basis, and confirms the Islamic character imposed on the State by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
He sees the meeting as a means to pressure the Church into in turn applying pressure on the congregation to refrain from any opposition. The meeting, he says, ended with no pledges or decisions on any of the issues vital for Christians in Egypt, not least among which is the Constituent Assembly that is currently writing Egypt’s new constitution along thoroughly Islamist lines.
Essam Iskandar, professor of philosophy at Ain Shams University, sees the purpose of the meeting as an attempt to contain the rising anger of Christians, who have been subjected to injustice and forced eviction more than once during Mursi’s short time as president. As matters stand, Dr Iskandar said, the rising unchecked climate of hate and discrimination promises more attacks against Copts, their churches, property, and businesses.
“In the wake of rampant allegations that Mursi is a president who represents the MB alone,” member of the Free Egyptians Party John Talaat says: “he feels the need to look, locally and internationally, as holding dialogue with all.” Mr Talaat also believes that President Mursi wished to gain the Church leaders’ support so that they may help curb the rebellion of Coptic youth against his regime which has so far done nothing to protect them or honour their rights as Egyptian citizens.
2 September 2012