28 June 2012
President-elect Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with Christian leaders from different denominations at the presidential palace in Cairo on 27 June.
(Photo: CNS/Egyptian presidency via Reuters)
Last weekend’s historic election in Egypt has prompted cautiously optimistic reactions from Christian leaders in the country. Gerard O’Connell of Vatican Insider has the details:
“We hope that he will fulfill his promises,” the Anglican bishop of Egypt said after Egypt’s first elected Islamic president, Mohammed Mursi, promised to be a president for all Egyptians, to appoint a prime minister who is not from the Muslim Brotherhood, and to appoint a Christian vice-president.
[Anglican] Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis expressed this widely shared hope in a letter to his community and friends shortly after the election results were announced on Sunday evening, June 24.
Mursi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, gained 51.7 percent of the vote in the freest and most honest election to be held in the country since 1952. His opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of the deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s administration, gained 48.3 percent.
The results have revealed a deeply divided country and much fear among Christians — who count for some 10 percent of the population, and among the secular and liberal sectors of the electorate. About 40 percent of the 50 million people entitled to vote actually did so.
Mursi’s election “may be the best thing for the moment, in order to avoid violence, but performance will be important,” a senior Catholic leader in Cairo, who wished to remain anonymous, told me.
The Coptic Catholic bishop of Luxor, Monsignor Youhannes Zakaria, told Fides that he considers Mursi’s victory “positive” and hopes “that now all work in a spirit of cooperation to renew the country.” He said the president’s first words “give peace,” in particular that he wants “to be President of all Egyptians, to improve economy and also to re-launch tourism.” Egyptian society is “tranquil,” he added, “but now after the words they want actions.”
Meanwhile, the acting head of the Coptic Catholic Church has sent a congratulatory letter to the new president:
The Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt has sent a letter of congratulations to the country’s first freely elected Islamic president and told him Catholics are praying that God may bless with success his work “for the realization of a civil, democratic, modern state that respects the rights and freedoms of all and can guarantee security, peace and social justice.”
The letter was signed by Monsignor Kyrillos William, the bishop of Assiut and acting head of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt, which has between about 200,000 members.
Writing in the name of the Coptic Catholics “in Egypt and in the countries of the diaspora,” the bishop congratulated Mohammed Mursi “for having gained the confidence of the people” in the mid-June presidential elections.
He said Coptic Catholics “are confident that with the aid of the Most High and All Powerful (God), and with your wisdom, you will be capable of leading the country and working for the superior interests of the nation and all its children, so that the cohesion of its fabric remains as it always has been.”
For more on the responses of Egyptian Christians to the election, click here. For more on Egypt’s Coptic Christians, check out the September 2011 issue of ONE magazine, where we explored the plight of Christian women in Egypt and profiled the challenges facing one woman reporter.
Tags: Egypt Christian-Muslim relations Egypt's Christians Democracy