10/10/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

Anti-Copt violence, consequence of 30 years of bad policies, said Catholic priest

The military is incapable of dealing with the situation. Egyptian Catholic Church spokesman appeals to Western government to prevent the country’s implosion and a drift towards fundamentalism.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – “Clashes between Coptic demonstrators and soldiers yesterday are the consequence of 30 years of policies based on repression and security. without laws favourable to society and education, tensions will continue to rise,” said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church. In an interview with AsiaNews, he called on Western nations to prevent Egypt from imploding.

For the clergyman, Egypt’s military is doing nothing to find a solution to the conflict pitting Copts against Muslims, which is largely a function of vague laws on religious buildings. “In small villages, there are many fundamentalists, and the rivalry with Christians is very strong,” Fr Greiche said. “De facto, there is no law regulating the construction of places of worship, and whatever little that does exist complicates matters. Everyone wants to apply them as they wish.”

Today, the ruling military Supreme Council is holding an emergency meeting to shed light on what led to yesterday’s violence, which left 36 people dead and 220 wounded.

In urging the population to remain calm, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf warned that Egypt was in “danger”. In his view, a conspiracy is trying to bring chaos to the country.

However, the “military are still acting like policemen,” Fr Greiche said. Sharaf’s words say nothing about how to solve the problem. “Like under Mubarak, rulers care only about keeping people quiet. Egyptians however are afraid about the future and fear that no one may be able to resolve the situation,” he added.

Unless people receive an education centred on coexistence and the common good, the Arab spring will prove useless. “In the past,” the priest explained, “no one cared about training young people in how to put into practice social policies. They all thought about their own careers. Few changes came from abroad.”

In addition to the social tensions between Christians and Muslims that have long plagued Egyptian society, now there is fear that the country might drift towards fundamentalism if the Muslim Brotherhood wins in November’s elections.

“Copts’ demonstration will not stop,” Fr Greiche noted. “They want to show everyone that they are an important minority and that they cannot be kept out of the new Egypt’s political life.”

Lastly, the priest has a plea for the international community, which is doing nothing tangible to help Arab countries, except to confirm existing economic agreements signed with the old regimes.

“Europe and Western nations are afraid of intervening,” he said. “They respect the will of the existing government, but that is stupid. The world has become a small village. Instability in the Middle East and anti-Christian hatred can easily spread to Europe. No country is immune from this danger.” (S.C.)
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