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ICC Note:

Coptic Christians call for new legislation in Egypt to protect religious liberties “despite the constant discrimination, persecution, and killing of Christians by the Muslim Brotherhood, radical Islamists, and Salafists,” the reports.

By Beatriz Schiava

6/10/2012 Egypt ( – On June 8, 2012 Bishop Passanty, of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, stated during the Al Arabiya’s show Noqtat Nezam, that his Church welcomes an Islamic president, if he respects the rights of Christians and the civil liberties of the population. Bishop Passanty courageously called for new legislation to protect religious liberties. The comments of Bishop Passanty are a symbol of Christian love, good will, and tolerance, despite the constant discrimination, persecution, and killing of Christians by the Muslim Brotherhood, radical Islamists, and Salafists.

The Coptic Church desires change, openness to democracy, and religious freedom. Regardless of the Islamic beliefs of the two presidential candidates, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mr. Mohammed Morsi, of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) the most popular candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister during the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship.

Both candidates are Islamists, who may not fulfill their campaign promises of a democratic government, human rights for women, and religious freedom. Both candidates have run a moderate campaign, offering rights to Christians and women, while stressing their democratic leanings. Still, people are not happy with the candidates. They feel disappointed with the results of the revolution, and they do not view these presidential candidates as a forward step to democracy. On one hand, they see Shafiq as a continuation of the old Mubarak regime, a dictatorship with a different pharaoh. With Shafiq, Egypt will continue its course as a secular, pseudo-democratic country, ruled by the iron hand of the military, and with few, if any religious freedoms.  On the other hand, with Mr. Morsi, Egyptians see a future Islamic regime, intolerant of women’s rights and hazardous to religious minorities.

Some international observers and religious minorities have pondered the future: Will Egypt become like Sudan, or Iraq, increasingly persecuting and killing Christians and subjecting them to humiliating regulations? Will Egypt outlaw Christianity, imposing the death penalty on those who convert to Christianity, as in Saudi Arabia? Will Egypt impose Sharia law, and discriminate against Christians and women, plunging this beautiful country into the dark ages?

The past radical history and the alliances of the Muslim brotherhood with radical Islamic movements and Salafists predict religious intolerance. The Muslim brotherhood and clerics have a vision of imposing Sharia, and forming a caliphate. As the well-known Egyptian Cleric Safwat Hagazy said at a presidential rally: “We can see how the dream of the Islamic Caliphate is being realized, Allah willing, by Dr. Mohammed Morsi and his brothers, his supporters, and his political party.” Hagazy said that he expects to see “the United States of the Arabs restore, and its capital will be Jerusalem.”

Regardless of who the next president is on June 17, the odds for religious freedoms are not promising in Egypt. The Coptic Christians live with the fear of an uncertain future in Egypt, especially without their internationally renowned Pope Shenouda III to advocate for them. When the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Pope Shenouda III, died on March 17, 2012, his congregation of 10 million Christians in Egypt, and thousands more abroad, mourned his passing deeply, feeling that their protector and advocate had left them at a time when the Church is suffering and facing an increase of violent attacks.

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