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Christians in the Muslim World

The condemnation of the Coptic Pope

‘Heavenly justice will be spoken at the appropriate time’. This was the comment by Theodoros II, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, with regard to the recent bloody events that have shaken Egypt.



For the first time in an interview with ONtv he condemned the guilty negligence of the President: ‘We want facts, not only words. President Morsi promised to do everything possible to protect the cathedral, but in reality this has never happened’. To the proposal by the government to set up a commission to deal with the issue, the Pope replied: ‘We have had enough of groups and commissions. We need actions, not words’.



Everything began last Friday in the neighbourhood of al-Khusus, to the north of Cairo, with some graffiti painted on the walls of the offices of an institute affiliated to al-Azhar. Very soon the violence took on a sectarian aspect, leaving five dead on the ground, one Muslim and four Copts. But the most serious incident from the symbolic point of view took place during the funeral of the Copts, the following Sunday, when the Cathedral of St. Mark in al-Abbasiyya was attacked in a semi-central quarter of Cairo.



Despite the appeals for calm and the promise by President Morsi to introduce extraordinary security measures, the faithful who had gathered for the funeral were targeted with stone-throwing and two people were killed. A terrible incident, as it was carried out against a place of prayer which is also the residence of the Pope of Alexandria.



The declarations by the authorities repeated the same old story, which is made up of three elements. First of all, it is a plot. The conspiracy is in fact today the category that many Egyptians prefer to interpret the facts: any event, by definition, is never what it seems, and the opposing party is always responsible for it. It is worth remembering that also in the attack on the Two Saints Church at the Coptic New Year in 2011 ‘foreign hands’ were accused, and which then turned out to be more prosaically agents provocateurs of the then Interior Ministry. Second element: the violence will not manage to shake national unity. It is true, and many people in Egypt are of this opinion.



Ed wahda, ‘one hand only’ was one of the slogans of the revolution and continues to be chanted. But national unity presupposes the principle of citizenship and not a constitution that seems deliberately made to divide. Third element: the attack on places of worship in unacceptable. Yes, in no uncertain terms. This is why it is becoming even more urgent to answer a very simple question: where were the security forces during this whole incident?



In recent months (it suffices to think of the clashes in Port Said) it has appeared evident on a number of occasions that, while the greatest responsibility lies with those in the government and in charge of the police forces, neither the Islamists nor the Liberals have any real control over the situation, which is moreover already seriously affected by the economic crisis, with continuous electricity cuts, lack of basic necessities and strikes that paralyse the country.



Even if signs of collaboration between Muslims and Christians are not lacking, as the protest organised together the day after the attack on the cathedral shows, the sectarian violence is becoming more and more explosive and dangerous.