Pope sends a memorandum to the President discussing injustice
CAIRO: The Middle East Christians Association (Meca) released a statement last week condemning the Coptic Church’s attitude in dealing with Muslim-Coptic relations.
Nader Fawzy, director of the Canada-based Christian NGO argued on the Meca website that Pope Shenouda, the highest authority in the Coptic Church, only gives “voice for the government, and fails to represent the Copts of Egypt. Fawzy earned his reputation as an outspoken, politically active Egyptian Copt through his website Meca-me.org. Promoting human rights concerns for Christians in the Middle East, the site shows a history of letters signed by the director asking foreign authorities and the foreign press to direct their attention to the religious violence of Muslims and Copts in Egypt.
Louis Greiss, Coptic writer and former editor-in-chief of Sabah El Kheir told The Daily Star Egypt, “In Fawzy’s opinion, Pope Shenouda might not represent the Coptic population, but Fawzy does not necessarily represent Coptic public opinion either.
Agreeing with Greiss was Sameh Farid, Dean of Cairo University’s Medical School, who told The Daily Star Egypt, Historically and theoretically, the Coptic Orthodox Pope has been the representative for Egyptian Copts, but his opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of every Copt.
In light of the recent religious clash on May12 in Al Ayyat 15 miles south of Giza, where nine people wee wounded, Fawzy wrote pointed out that “whenever disturbances arise between Copts and Muslims, people wonder what the Coptic Church is doing. The Ayyat dispute began over the government s refusal to allow Copts in the town to build an extension to the church, forcing many Copts to worship at home.
For years, Copts complained of discrimination when it come to building churches.
In the governorate of Beni Sueif, Sherif Doss and his family made several attempts to build a small church near Nazlat Hanna Al Fasha, where half the town s population is Coptic.
Yet for the past 46 years, we ve been denied permission to use our grounds to build the church for security reasons. We re still not aware of what these security reasons are, said Doss.
Although there are no legal obstacles to building places of worship for Copts, bureaucratic hurdles often impede the implementation of the law. By comparison, building a mosque involves much less legal hassle.
Fikry Bassily, Coptic intellectual and retired politician and economist told The Daily Star Egypt, many people see Pope Shenouda as the leader of the Coptic population, not only in Egypt, but abroad as well. However, it s only when Copts are attacked that Pope Shenouda s title get slandered, even by Copts themselves.
In addition to the criticism during the most recent dispute between Muslims and Copts in the country, Fawzy continued his slamming of the Church by arguing they are simply mouthpieces of the current Egyptian regime.
“The government asks the Church for its opinion on many political issues so the Copts would get behind it, but the government refuses the Church s advise if it s against what they [the government] want, Fawzy said. Fawzy makes a point that the holy council might demonstrate itself as a tool of the government. “.Like nominating Mubarak for the presidency, prohibiting the Copts from visiting Jerusalem so they won t hurt Muslim sentiment, or for statements about the non-existence of discrimination against the Copts. Fawzy says that, “Coptic political leaders that can move and gather the Copts behind one movement and save face for the Church are needed. “Pope Shenouda’s actions effect ours, so when he writes a warning letter telling the Copts not to visit Jerusalem, it is because he is concerned for their safety. An issue like this always has to be dealt with in passivity, otherwise, violence is the result, said Bassily. Due to controversy stemming from the events in Ayat, Pope Shenouda issued a memorandum to President Mubarak Monday stating that “Copts deal with a lot of injustice in Egypt. Although Copts do not vote for their pope like a president of a nation, and it is a religious council that appoints him, Pope Shenouda is ranked highest in the Coptic hierarchy of bishops, clergymen and priests.
“He acknowledges his position as a cultural figure and tries to act accordingly, said Greiss.