08/09/2013, 00.00
EGYPT

Egypt's Pope Tawadros targeted by Islamists

Catholic sources say the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch is a target for possible Islamist reprisal. His weekly readings in Cairo cathedral have been cancelled for safety reasons. Meanwhile, in many parts of Egypt, anti-Christian intimidation and violence continue with two deaths in the past two days. For activist, "People are waiting for the army to remove Muslim Brotherhood protest camps."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "We fear that Pope Tawadros II might become a target of Islamist reprisal," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt. "In recent weeks, after the fall of the Morsi administration, attacks and acts of intimidation against the Christian minority have occurred on a daily basis."

On 3 July, when General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, ushering in a period of transition, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, and Coptic Pope Tawadros, expressed both their enthusiasm and approval. The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church added, "The plan laid out by the general will be carried out by people who care about the country's fate."

Such a statement in support of the caretaker government has led many members of the Muslim Brotherhood to think that Christians were behind a plot against President Morsi, and this has triggered a spate of reprisals from violent groups.

"Pope Tawadros II," Fr Greiche said, "used to go to Cairo's St Mark Cathedral every Wednesday to meet with the faithful and hold a series of weekly readings. Since President Morsi's ouster more than a month ago, he has been forced to hold those meetings in a monastery outside the city."

"From Upper Egypt to the capital, violence and intimidation continue. Two days ago, a Catholic man was killed in Sohag, whilst yesterday, a 10-year-old girl was murdered as she left a Protestant church in one of the more densely populated districts of Cairo. The attackers came up to her on a motorcycle and opened fire.

Maghdi Mina, a leader in the Muslim-Christian Maspero Youth Union, told AsiaNews that "in the streets of Cairo there is an atmosphere of expectation, after Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi gave an ultimatum to the Muslim Brotherhood to end its protest camp."

"After a month occupying Nahda and Rabaa Adawiya, people are tired and wondering why the military is still letting things go on as they are," he added.

Many analysts believe that Western diplomatic meddling in the political affairs of the country has been a hindrance to a more determined intervention by the Armed Forces.

On 7 August, caretaker Prime Minister Beblawi announced the failure of Western-backed diplomatic talks, and made a last appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood to leave the streets and return to home.

For weeks, military helicopters have been flying over the areas occupied by Islamist demonstrators, dropping flyers urging them to leave. Now people expect the military to move in in a few days time.

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