The attendance of Pope Tawadros II at the planning session for Egypt’s future road map was in itself a demonstration that there is no need for rhetoric when it comes to drawing a red line under the message that all Egyptians belong to Egypt.
First: Egypt’s future will include Copts. They are an essential and main element of Egyptian civilisation and history. Their very existence is a stand against fanaticism and defeats any attempt to divide Egypt. The Copts are full citizens whose rights and duties are guaranteed by law.
Second: The extension of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s patriotic role. The Church is Egypt’s oldest institution; it holds up the banner of its glorious past and carries it onward as it has done for almost 2,000 years. Throughout these years the Church has actively and effectively been part and parcel of the nation’s daily life. In its Mass, the Church prays for the River Nile and for crops, climate and safety of the land. The Church embraced the moderate institution of Al-Azhar and cooperated with it against all attempts at external occupation or internal exclusion.
Third: The inclusion of the Coptic spiritual leader represented an acknowledgement of the steep price Copts have paid in lives, churches, property, and personal safety over the centuries, and continue to pay under adverse circumstances. This was especially flagrant during times of instability, unrest, lack of security, and extremism, which led to fanatical hatred and intentional exclusion. Under all these conditions, Copts always remained absolutely loyal to their nation.
Fourth: The participation of the Church and Al-Azhar is neither an indication of religious power nor of interference in politics by religious institutions. There presence is similar to that of the Armed Forces, a national institution which undertakes s patriotic role but does not interfere in politics.
Fifth: Pope Tawadros II, with his charming personality and wisdom, has proved his strength. That he possesses a creative, organised mind showed clearly in his short but profound speech, especially when he affirmed that the future road map was in the country’s best interest, without the exclusion, marginalisation or exception of anyone. The Pope rejected the use of these three words that the Muslim Brothers use against Copts—“exclusion, marginalisation and exception” —against any Egyptian.
Sixth: Throughout Egypt’s modern history, the best way to polarise Egypt or drive a wedge into its peaceful, coherent community has been to attack its Copts. This was the surest method to send shockwaves through the entire country and turn Egyptian against Egyptian. The fact that the Coptic Pope was included in drawing the roadmap for the future of Egypt strongly indicates that any new administration will not be allowed to sanction the treatment of Copts as second-class citizens, or to curtail their rights as Egyptian citizens. The message is loud and clear: Copts are part and parcel of Egyptian society and, as such, are equal to their Muslim fellow-citizens.
The Pope’s interpretation of the Egyptian flag, its colours and the eagle in the midst, was simple and conveyed a meaning every Egyptian could understand. It was a magnificent message for every person, one forgotten amidst the pains of politics, arguments and divisions: the sense of the homeland in the flag held high by millions of Egyptians in the squares of Egypt.
14 July 2013