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ICC Note: As Egypt prepares for a presidential election, the situation for Christians remains unclear. Christians saw persecution rise across the country under the Muslim Brotherhood. Churches see positive steps being taken to start creating a more unified country, not hardened along religious lines. Unfortunately, Christians continue to be the target of violence, especially the increasing numbers of kidnappings throughout rural Egypt.
03/27/2014 Egypt (Al-Ahram) – For many Christians in Egypt, the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was a reason to feel secure about the future. The imminent nomination of Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for the presidency has likewise been greeted with satisfaction by church officials as well as laymen. Yet the spectre of fanaticism still looms over the country, as evidenced by recent abductions targeting Copts in the south.
Pope Tawadros II has had no qualms about stating his preference for Egypt’s next president. Calling Al-Sisi’s candidacy a “national duty”, the pope said that many Egyptians see the field marshal as a saviour: the hero of the 30 June Revolution. In a televised statement, the pope passed a grim verdict on the uprisings of the Arab Spring, saying that what they brought to the region was a long “winter” and the opportunity for “evil hands” to split our nations apart.
On a more optimistic note, the pope voiced satisfaction with the country’s political course over the last nine months. “Since the 30 June Revolution, Egypt has steadily pursued a roadmap to the future, one that began with the drafting of the constitution and that will take us through the presidential elections.” For Egyptians, 30 June marked a new beginning in the fight against fanaticism, he added.
“30 June wasn’t a normal day for Egyptians, Muslim or Christian. It saw the birth of a consensus and it was through the glorious solidarity it showed that the country was rid of the MB rule.”
Recalling images of 30 June, the pope said that “the nuns were waving the Egyptian flags next to their hijab-clad sisters at a decisive moment in our history.”
The pope pointed out that the church not only supported the MB’s ouster, but also stood up to western claims that the removal of the Islamists from power was a coup d’etat. “The Egyptian Church took a heroic stand at a time of chaos and hardship. We saw out churches and monasteries destroyed, while the western media falsified the facts and relayed distorted news,” the head of the Coptic Church said. “The church was careful to clarify the facts to western and foreign delegations who visited us after such events.”
Eager to share its views with Christian communities abroad, the Egyptian Church is reaching out to the Russians. Bishop Royce Morcos, secretary general of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral and spokesman of the Alexandria-based churches, said that Pope Tawadros II is planning to visit the Russian Orthodox Church soon. It will be the first visit to Russia by an Egyptian pope in eight years.
At the same time the frequent abductions of Copts in southern Egypt has raised concern among Coptic officials. In the governorate of Minya, ten Coptic citizens including five doctors were kidnapped in less than a week. Although security officials play down the abductions, describing them as “isolated incidents”, the Coptic community is appalled by the phenomenon. Some link the abductions to the ouster of the Islamists, noting that the Copts are once again being scapegoated over political differences (among Muslims).
Gabhat Mostaqbal Al-Saeed (The Upper Egypt Future Front), a Minya-based youth movement, is planning to stage demonstrations next week in protest of the sectarian kidnappings, the most recent of which involved the kidnapping of a four-year-old child, Peter Nagi Farag, in Mallawi. Nearly 100 Christians have been abducted in Minya since 25 January 2011.

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