12/14/2012, 00.00
EGYPT

Coptic patriarch and Christian Churches urge participation in referendum

Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II last night confirmed his support. Christians will be free to vote for or against the proposed constitution in accordance with their conscience. Catholic Church spokesman believes 'No' side will grow against the Islamist constitution, and that this cannot be ignored.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egypt's Churches have called on their members to take part in tomorrow's referendum. "Every citizen has the freedom to vote," Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II said last night at the end of a meeting with representatives of all Christian denominations (Orthodox Copts, Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans).

"The Churches have not said how people should vote. Everyone is free to vote in favour or against the new constitution," Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church and organiser of the meeting, told AsiaNews.

Christians, who are about 10 per cent of the population, will probably follow the lead of liberal parties, which told voters not to boycott the referendum but instead vote no to the Islamist-drafted instead. This way, Egyptians can show they trust the democratic system whilst trying to defeat the Islamist majority through the ballot box.

"Our hope is that this constitution will not be approved," the priest said. "The climate is very different from the previous vote on the constitution right after Mubarak's fall. This time, the 'No' side will be stronger and cannot be ignored."

In November, Church representatives pulled out of the constituent assembly in protest against articles that denied both Christians and muslims basic rights and freedoms, by subordinating legal interpretation on the Qur'an, thus Islamising Egyptian society.

Many religious and non-religious leaders accuse President Mohamed Morsi and Islamist groups of sowing division within the country by using Islam to stay in power.

Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered again in Tahrir Square to protest peacefully against a referendum held in an atmosphere of tensions and chaos without the consent of much of the people.

For their part, Islamist groups organised pro-constitution rallies at the mosques of Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, Al-Rashdan and al-Rabaa Adaweya after Friday prayers.

Today, Islamist leaders released threatening statements against attempts to interfere with the referendum, claiming that a 'Yes' vote is the only way out of the chaos. (S.C.)

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