11/07/2012, 00.00
EGYPT

Salafists seize Church land in Cairo to hit back at new patriarch

The symbolic action is a reprisal against a statement by newly elected Patriarch Tawadros II against having the Sharia included in the new constitution. The incident occurred on Monday night in Shubra al-Kheima, southern Cairo. Bishop Antonius Morcos, who is the spokesman for Patriarch Shenouda III's successor, heads the diocese.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "By seizing land that belongs to the Diocese of Shubra al-Kheima, Salafists are sending a warning to the new Coptic patriarch, Tawadros II," said Rafic Greiche. Speaking to AsiaNews, the clergyman, who is the spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, explained that with such action Muslim extremists want to intimidate Shenouda III's successor because of his statement against the inclusion of Sharia in Egypt's future constitution.

On Monday night, about a hundred of Muslim extremists wielding sticks and rods seized land near the S. Mina Church in Shubra al-Kheima, in the centre of Cairo. With police standing idly by, the Islamists occupied the parcel of land for more than a day and put up a sign bearing the words 'Al-Rahma Mosque'. Only this morning did law enforcement moved in after Church authorities informed the Interior Ministry.

The diocese is headed by Bishop Antonius Morcos, who is Coptic Church media point man as well as new patriarch's spokesman.

"Such an action is nothing new in Egypt, but this is the first time that extremists directly go after a high-profile Coptic prelate," Fr Greiche said.

In a statement issued yesterday Patriarch Tawadros II criticised the Islamist stranglehold on the constituent assembly, saying that the Coptic Orthodox Church would oppose any step taken by the constituent assembly to impose Islamic law on the country.

Today, groups of Christian and Muslim activists called on the authorities to arrest the Salafists who carried out the action.

Members of the Maspero Youth Movement and leaders of the Free Egyptian Party appealed to President Morsi to stop such acts, which stir sectarian hatred. (S.C.)

 

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