Coptic Catholic leader speaks out on change in Egypt

Coptic Catholic leader speaks out on change in Egypt

Given the shifts taking place almost on a daily basis across the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since last month, it was especially interesting to read the ACN interview reproduced by Ekklesia with HE Cardinal Antonius Naguib from the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt -- also a member of the Middle East Council of Churches.

The Coptic Catholics number around 200,000 altogether, and some people had wondered about the standpoint of the Cardinal on the 'angry revolution' in Egypt, given that his earlier statements had been deemed by observers as somewhat ambivalent.

The Copts constitute altogether (Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical) roughly 10 per cent of the overall population in Egypt and have had their ups and downs with government and society over many years - some of them due to miscalculations and tensions on all sides.

Now, Cardinal Naguib has welcomed the interim military regime’s stated aim of dismantling the autocratic style of government built up over 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, who resigned as president on 11 February 2011.

Speaking from Alexandria in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Naguib said: “Moving towards a civil, democratic government, rather than a religious or a military one, has been our hope for a long time – it has been a dream. ... We will encourage very much all the members of the Church to participate in the elections. It is for us an historic opportunity. For the last few decades there has been a lack of freedom. It was not human. We are pleased with what has happened for it gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. ... Mubarak and his regime did not understand the calls for change that have been going on for five years or more. We are now facing a situation that is critical in a number of ways – politically and socially. ... The social problems in Egypt are so many and so huge that they cannot be solved in one go. It will take time. ... The country does not have an unending amount of treasure to enable an immediate improvement in the standard of living."

He added: “If the Muslim Brothers enter into the framework of a civil society as a party with a very clear programme they are as welcome as any other political party. However, if they want to transform Egypt into a religious country with Sharia law then I think that not only the Christians but more than half the population will not accept that.”

The original article can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14160

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(c) Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris, and he is a regular Ekklesia contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.ukHarryHagopian). Formerly, he was Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches. His own website is www.epektasis.net

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