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Egypt’s Coptic Christians: Governed By Islamists, In Search Of A New Leader
ICC Note:
For Christians today, the future of Egypt remains uncertain as Islamist parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, appear to be solidifying control over the government. Christians also continue to be the targets of mob violence—often led by Salafis who adhere to the radical interpretation of Islam found in Saudi Arabia—which has led tens of thousands of Copts to seek immigration to western countries with the intent of leaving their homeland permanently. As Coptic clergy proceed to elect a new pope, there are high expectations among Coptic Christians over his role both as a spiritual head and as a political leader. The new pope will be tasked with restoring unification and a common voice within the church while diplomatically defending the rights of Christians before an Islamist-dominated government. Failure to do so could be detrimental to the future of Christianity in Egypt. Unless hope is restored and solidarity is renewed, the flight of Christians from Egypt will continue.
By Jacey Fortin
10/29/2012 Egypt (International Business Times)- A poll on Monday took Egypt’s Coptic Christians one step closer to selecting a new patriarch.
At St. Mark’s Cathedral in the capital city of Cairo, a list of five papal candidates was put to a ballot to be whittled down to three. On Nov. 4, a new man will become the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle.
The ascension of a new leader is of paramount importance to the Coptic community as Egypt’s leaders struggle to establish a governmental framework that accommodates the demands of an Islamist majority without alienating religious minorities.
Of more than 2,400 people who voted on Monday — composed mostly of high-ranking male and female dignitaries and clergy members, all chosen by the church — each cast a ballot for one of five papal candidates: three monks and two bishops between the ages of 49 and 70.
The three who garner the most votes will have their names placed in a box atop an altar in St. Mark’s Cathedral. Then, in accordance with a centuries-old tradition, a blindfolded child will randomly choose one of them in a Sunday ceremony, determining the new patriarch of the Egyptian Christian community.
Pope Shenouda III was the last to hold the papacy in Egypt. The popular and charismatic leader died in March at the age of 88; he had been the pope for 40 years and was lauded by Copts and Muslims alike for his efforts to encourage inter-faith dialogue.
The new pope will not only be charged with presiding over ecclesiastical affairs for Egypt’s Copts; he will also be a spokesperson for the religious minority in a country where Islamists have recently been elected to lead the post-revolution government.
Paul Sedra, a Middle East expert and associate professor of history at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, explains that recent popes have set a high bar for the newcomer.
“Thanks in large part to Shenouda’s example, as well as that of his predecessor, Kyrillos VI, the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt now demand far more from their pope than they have at any time in the modern era,” he said in an essay for Egypt Independent.
“Whereas a century ago, the Coptic community had a vigorous, politically active lay [non-clergy] leadership, the clerical hierarchy has now assumed much of the responsibility for communal leadership that once belonged to the laity.”

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