05/09/2011, 00.00
EGYPT

Threat of civil war looms over Egypt, an appeal to the international community

The spokesman of the Catholic Churches of Egypt calls on the international community to intervene to prevent the rise of an Islamic regime. The army locks down the capital to prevent further clashes between Christians and Muslims. Those who foment religious hatred could be sentenced to death.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "Egypt is at the beginning of a great civil war. And this because of a small group of Islamic extremists who are stifling the ideals of the Jasmine Revolution, fomenting violence across the country”, Fr Rafic Greich, chief press officer for the Egyptian Catholic Church and spokesman for the seven Egyptian Catholic denominations tells AsiaNews. The priest calls on the international community to support the military led government and protect all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, from discrimination and the advent of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. Today, thousands of Copts protested outside the headquarters of the Egyptian TV (Maspero) a few meters from Tahrir Square, calling for greater security, equal rights and the end of discrimination.

After the clashes last May 7 between Orthodox Copts and Muslims left at 12 dead and 189 wounded, this morning the army deployed thousands of troops in the capital and suburbs. To prevent further violence, the security forces have arrested 190 people, Christians and Muslims, threatening the death penalty for all those who foment sectarian hatred.

"The situation is very critical - points out Fr. Greich - the military government is too weak and fears Islamic extremist groups like the Salafis, who are eager to create unrest and chaos everywhere. " The priest also said that the Coptic Catholic Church is in danger, even though "for now, no Catholic church was attacked." However, immediately after the attack on the church of St. Mina Imbada (north-east of Cairo), the Coptic Orthodox priest of the parish took refuge in the nearby Catholic church spared from attacks by Salafists. "During the clashes - Fr.Greiche states - the Salafists retaliated and killed a sixteen year old nephew of the local Catholic bishop, shooting him in the head."

A few months after the fall of Mubarak, the ideals of the popular uprising are in danger of being suffocated by radical Islam and counter-revolutionary attempts carried out by men of the former regime. According to Father Greich latter are using the Salafists to create a climate of terror and fear. He stresses, however, that the ideology of radical Islam is spreading even among the main, once moderate, Egyptian Muslim leaders, who are increasingly drawing closer to fringe elements, figures such as Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other members of Muslim Brotherhood.

For Father Greich the popular revolution of 25 February was a great event, but to date there no are leaders who can represent its values. "On the other hand - he says - the aim of the revolution organized by the young people at Tahrir Square was not to replace one regime with another regime."

Meanwhile, AsiaNews sources in Cairo, anonymous for security reasons, explain that the lay movements born after the revolution are fighting with all their might to transform Egypt into a secular state that respects human rights. But they need the support of the international community which must strongly condemn the acts by extremists and, together with the government draw up an aid plan to help revive the Egyptian economy. (S.C.)

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