The general feeling of resentment among the Coptic public at the proceedings of the National Dialogue called for by President Mursi, led to a recent meeting among the representatives of the three major Churches in Egypt—the Coptic Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Evangelical—in the National Dialogue. The representatives, who met at the media centre of the Catholic Church in Cairo
The general feeling of resentment among the Coptic public at the proceedings of the National Dialogue called for by President Mursi, led to a recent meeting among the representatives of the three major Churches in Egypt—the Coptic Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Evangelical—in the National Dialogue. The representatives, who met at the media centre of the Catholic Church in Cairo, exchanged notes on the National Dialogue and what results may be expected of it, but stopped short of reaching a decision on whether or not to quit the forum. This decision, a spokesperson said, will be taken once the representatives present their assessment of the situation to the leaders of their Churches.
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 The Church, which had withdrawn its representatives from the predominantly Islamist Constituent Assembly which rushed through the Islamist draft constitution in a flagrant overruling of all the non-Islamist sectors and in defiance to consensus, agreed to participate in the National Dialogue.
The Coptic public has 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 the outcome of the National Dialogue will be put before Parliament, and will be promptly defeated by the Islamist-majority house. And the President has 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.
The Rev. Rifaat Fathy of the Evangelical Church remarked 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 said. “The secular demands have been promptly overruled. The Church is not involved in political demands; its main concern is the new constitution; will its concerns on that front be overruled too?
“If our participation in the dialogue is a mere formality to endow it with legitimacy,” Fr Rifaat warned, “we will quit.”
The Coptic and rights activist Sameh Fawzy fully agreed with Rev. Rifaat. “The Church is not into politics,” he said; “The main issue is the constitution.” “We may be looking,” he said, “at an upcoming parliament that may 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 of the Catholic Church told Watani, “toward the National Dialogue which is increasingly perceived as disrespectful of its non-Islamist participants.
“Fears are escalating that it will be another version of the Constitutional Assembly which catered to the Islamist streams and sidelined 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.”
22 January 2013