08/13/2014, 00.00
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For Catholic Church spokesman, Egyptian Muslims show solidarity with Iraq's persecuted Christians

Media and civil society groups are following with concern events in the Arab country. Criticism is expressed against the inertia of Arab and Muslim leaders. Father Greiche describes a nation that is slowly recovering with "a sense of greater security." The Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet have become the subject of "non-violent" interpretation.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egyptian media and civil society groups are following with concern events in Iraq, where the army of the Islamic State is systematically persecuting minorities. They are close to the Christians" and openly criticise "the inertia of Arab and Muslim leaders," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that more and more people agree that jihadism must be contained and closely watched.  For the Christian clergyman, Egypt too is not immune from what is happening in Iraq. Attacking minorities was also "part of the agenda" of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Egyptian security forces "planned massacre" against pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators in July and August 2013. However, for Fr Greiche, the report is "prejudiced and biased" in the way it describes the mass killings by Egyptian troops. In his view, the crackdown was meant to end the opposition by loyalists of former President Mohammed Morsi, who were themselves responsible for acts of violence and abuse.

The Christian leader said he was in a privileged position "about a kilometre from Rabaa," the mosque where the massacre took place. "In fact, armed Salafists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood could be seen," he said. "Certainly no one can speak of unarmed civilians . . . Maybe the police might have done a better job, but the report is biased."

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has led the country since June. The former army chief who overthrew Morsi has pursued an intransigent policy towards the fundamentalist wing that de facto boycotted the vote.

"Today there is a sense of greater safety," Fr Greiche noted. "There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm, even if the power supply is often cut and the economic crisis persists. Nevertheless, Egyptians want to rebuild their lives and encourage their children's education. [. . .] Stabilisation, security and economic recovery" remain the priorities. "We must speed up things."

"Freedom from Hosni Mubarak's tyranny" is what is left of the protests in Tahrir Square, said the Catholic Church spokesman. However, historians are still struggling to frame this recent period in the nation's history.

Although some talk about revolt and others of revolution, the clergyman has his own interpretation of events. "It began as a revolt, and became a revolution when Mubarak proved too slow to heed people's questions." By contrast, the anti-Morsi revolt "achieved more effective results."

As far Christians are concerned, "not much has changed, since they go to church today as they did before," Fr Greiche said. However, an interesting thing, he noted, is a government proposal "agreed by the heads of Churches" to go later this year before Parliament for approval, on the ownership of religious buildings.

"In Egypt, there is freedom of religion and a desire to discuss things," he added. "This can be seen from the first concrete attempts to discuss Islam from within," he explained.

"The Qur'an, the sayings of the Prophet, what is right and wrong in the holy book are being discussed. A desire is emerging to interpret what the prophet Muhammad said. This is talked about on TV and in the newspapers, freely, with contributions not only from experts but also from young people, and atheists. Without violence or tensions."

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