Saturday 30 September 2023

From the archive of Abdelrahim Ali

Sisi becomes first brave president to attend Christmas Mass, Christians demands in Egypt

Abdelrehim Aly

It was a good move made by a brave man when President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi went to the St. Mark's Cathedral, wishing our Christian brothers a merry Christmas.

This move shows how well the president is aware of his religion, as well as the dimension of his responsibility and the surrounding challenges.

He also presented himself as the first Egyptian president to congratulate the Christian brothers on their feast from the heart of their cathedral.

This opens my appetite to use this brave position of the president to present what I see as real problems for the Copts.

The real tragedy of the Copts - from my point of view, Mr. President - started with the beginning of the rule of the late President Anwar Sadat, who began his ruling by the famous reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

This started when a mob of Muslim citizens attacked the local Bible Society in Khanka, in the Delta governorate of Qalyubiya.

This incident marked the beginning of a series of cases at the State Security Investigation Bureau. After forming a fact-finding committee headed by Gamal Al-Otaifi and put a successful program for treating these problems, the whole case was handed to the State Security Service.

A bloodier incident took place in the Cairo neighborhood of Al-Zawya al-Hamra to mark the first time State Security dealt with this kind of cases, when the Coptic community planned to build a church on an empty plot of land in the area, which some residents opposed.

At the time, President Sadat sought to refer to the incident as a simple quarrel that took place between a Muslim family and a Christian family after one family’s dirty water was spilled over the clean laundry of their neighbors, completely neglecting the facts of the incident.

It did not differ much in the 1990s when the wave of violence rose to affect everyone, and the Egyptian armed Islamic group took the Copts hostage to force the regime to submit to their requests.

Away from the persecution that we saw with our own eyes of the Copts in the eighties and nineties in Minya, Assiut, Sohag and Qena, which reached the point of punishing them in the mosques occupied by members of the extremist Islamic groups in Upper Egypt at the time.

The attacks against the Copts reached their max at that stage, which witnessed the killing of more than a hundred Copts in separate incidents, and security, as usual, described these organized incidents as individual incidents.

The Monastery of Muharraq, Damiana, Izbat Al-Aqbat, Izbat Dawood and Al-Temsahia, all these names refer to villages and monasteries that witnessed heinous massacres against the Copts between 1994 and 1997, during which dozens were killed, and the state continued to deal with the issue in the same manner.

There is no sectarianism in the events, individual events, no accused who are submitted to the courts and no rulings .. It was a real tragedy, that the prestige of the law was lost, in a country that has a massive and proud civilization, which dates back to more than seven thousand years.

I realized during all these years that sedition come from not allowing the construction of churches and also by the state of inaction in the application of the law, as everyone must respect the prestige of the state.

Copts have specific and clear demands. They have been revealed by all the events and problems that have gone through the country over the past five decades.

Some of these demands include a unified law to build places of worship, whether Muslim or Christian, seeking practical solutions to the problem of their political representation, to remove sectarian congestion by creating a law that provides for respect for beliefs, and the prohibition of stirring discord and incitement, as well as establishing a higher council for national unity.