Thanks to a new government that seems intent on protecting the rights of Egyptians, including the Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, this Christmas (January 7) was celebrated successfully without any major incidents of violence although the January 14 vote over a new constitution has stirred up new street violence across Egypt.
The Catholic news agency Zenit reports a higher turnout during the Christmas liturgies across Egypt this year as compared to previous years. Recent years under the Obama administration sponsored Muslim Brotherhood government were not kind to Egypt’s Christians and in the past year over 50 churches have been gutted and hundreds killed by government sponsored terror groups.
Things are gradually improving and according to Zenit News, “There was an atmosphere of stability and that is why this year was different to last year,” said Fr. Rafik Greiche, media representative for the Coptic Bishops’ Conference. “Even though there was a little bit of fear among the people, they were not outright afraid…We do feel very encouraged.”
Under former President Mohammed Morsi’s regime, any public display of Christian symbols were prohibited. During the revolution in August 2013 that ousted Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the former Egyptian president blamed Egypt’s Christian minority for the uprising. That created a deadly wave of violence on Egyptian Christians.
On our last trip, the Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, was in hiding and being protected by the new government during the violent weeks of the revolution. This Christmas he presided at the Christmas liturgy, his first since being elected Pope (Patriarch), with greetings from Russian Patriarch Kirill including a special delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Copts are nominally in communion with Rome but the Eastern Orthodox Churches would like to have them back.
Recently the Egyptian transitional government announced that official recognition was to be given all Coptic Orthodox services and Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour met with Pope Tawadros in Alexandria at the Cathedral of Saint Mark, on Christmas Eve, January 6. We are hoping that this signals the beginning of real change and peace for Egypt. The USA covertly aided the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Islamic government and got their arses kicked, deservedly, on Egypt.
On January 14, Egypt began voting on a referendum for a revised constitution which will replace the one ratified by the Morsi regime. Eleven people so far have died as violence surrounding the voting intensified across Egypt. In many ways the vote for a new constitution is a referendum on the interim government. There are widespread rumours that General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, chief of the army, plans to run for president in upcoming elections.
We are hoping that Washington gets and stays out of the way this time. Only time will tell.