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Report on the Plight of Christians in Egypt

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The rehabilitation of churches requires a permit from regional governors. The construction of new churches requires the approval of the president and a permit to build one can take as long as ten years — and may never be secured. However, even if the president approves such a request, security forces must investigate to see if the Muslim community does not object. If it does, the church may not be built.

Further Concerns of the Christian Community Following the Recent Unrest

Since January 25, 2011 to-date, Egypt faces the largest demonstrations seen in the country since the 1977 “Bread Riots” drawing participants from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and faiths. The demonstrations started in the weeks after the Tunisian uprising. Grievances for Egyptian protesters have focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and free speech, and corruption as well as economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages. Demands from protest organizers included rights of freedom and justice, the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime, and a new government that represents the interests of the Egyptian people.

On the international level, Church leaders are watching the unfolding political drama in Egypt with a mixture of hope for reform and concern over potential violence.

On the domestic level, the Christian Egyptians’ political position remains unclear as Mubarak’s opponents include both radical and moderate Muslim groups, and it is unclear who might assume power if the president resigns.

CNEWA/Pontifical Mission staff contacted some church institutions and leaders in Egypt regarding the stance of the church of Egypt in view of the current political and security situations, summarized as follows:

1) On the Political Level:

  • The Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III who is the head of the largest church in Egypt which includes more than 90 percent of Egypt’s Christians, declared a clear position supporting the current regime and asking for reform from within without any revolutionary actions.

  • Christians of Egypt fear a fate similar to the fate of Iraqi Christians who were supportive to the Regime of Saddam Hussein and ended up being persecuted and by Muslim groups who treated them as part of the dictatorship regime.

  • The leadership of the Egyptian opposition has a face of a reformist move, but Church leaders believe that the main engine of the demonstrators is fuelled by the Muslim brotherhood that will end up seizing the authority through future elections and all patriotic and ideological parties participating in the protests will be left in deception.

  • The Christian activist, George Shahada, who was appointed as one of the ten leaders of the protestors or opposition is considered by the church as an independent activist who does not represent the Christians or the Church of Egypt. Further, many church leaders consider him as part of an image displayed to the international community by the Muslim groups who have a different political agenda for the period after the fall of the regime.

2) On the Security Level:





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