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19 July 2012

Religious Liberty in Egypt

Religious Liberty in Egypt

In November's PQ we reported on the eruption of sectarian violence in Egypt as the country was preparing for presidential elections. A few weeks ago, Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood won Egypt's first ever freely contested presidential election with 51.73% of the 13.23 million votes that were cast. So what does this mean for Egypt's Christians?

Open Doors spoke to one Christian in Egypt who had hoped to have a more moderate president elected, he said that "fear has shaken the hearts of many Egyptians' he continued "how soon will we as Christians see, live and suffer the consequences of having a Muslim Brotherhood-loyal president?"

In Mr Mursi's first speech after winning the election he pledged "respect for human rights, maintaining rights of women and children….. Egypt is for all Egyptians; all of us are equals in terms of rights." He also announced his intention to appoint both a Christian and a woman as vice-presidents." Ahmed Deif, a policy advisor to Mr Mursi also told CNN there would be a strategy of "inclusiveness, inclusiveness, inclusiveness' and that Egypt would not become the Islamic Republic of Egypt.

This intention has given hope to Christians in Egypt. Speaking last week Bishop Kyrillos William, from the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria said "the future will not be worse than what we have had before… in Egypt we are all Egyptian – whether Christian or Muslim – and the President has promised that there will be a Copt and a woman appointed as vice-presidents." Critics of Mr Mursi have been worried that the new president will continue a similar regime to the interim military rulers, which has caused Christians to leave Egypt in the thousands because of persecution and fear.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Egypt this Saturday urging Egypt to commit to "a strong, durable democracy." She met with Mr Mursi and then the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) Field Marshal Tantawi. Mrs Clinton emphasised the need for Egypt to respect minorities and women, saying that democracy was a process not just one election.

Egypt
has however found itself in an unprecedented constitutional crisis and power struggle. The military council ordered the dissolution of parliament before the election and formally handed over power on 30 June. However, shortly before the inauguration, the military also gave themselves sweeping powers. Last week Mr Mursi decreed that Parliament reconvene in order to fill the power vacuum in the country, but his decree was rejected by the Supreme Constitutional Court who declared that all its verdicts are final. A new constitution for Egypt still needs to be drafted, which the military chiefs have the power to veto.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas welcomed "Mr Mursi's stated commitments to equality of citizenship regardless of creed, age and gender" and urged him to "follow through his encouraging statements on inclusive government for Egypt with actions that support democracy, rule of law and equality before the law for all Egyptians."


Please continue to pray for Egypt as it writes it new constitution, that the rights of all minorities would be protected and that Christians would be free to worship.