Egyptian Christians still yearn for peace

On 25 January 2011 the people of Egypt celebrated the third anniversary of the popular uprising which toppled the Mubarak Regime. For many Egyptians, they’ve never seen such an interesting period in the modern political history of the country. It’s even confusing for many and no one seems to really know what tomorrow brings.

During a recent Conference organised by the Coptic Orthodox Church (on 20 January) a former Member of Parliament (Dr Amr el-Shobaki) spoke about the recently-conducted Constitutional Referendum. He was of the view that it was strange to accept a ‘new’ Constitution which gained 98.1% approval of those who voted. Such a result reminds Egyptians of the days when past presidents ‘won re-election’ with similar percentages. There is a twofold reason for this result: the Muslim Brotherhood campaigned for a boycott and other Egyptians, for various reasons, saw no need to vote.

Dr el-Shobaki and many reasonable Egyptians, and non-Egyptians, find this Constitution far better than the previous one, but the campaign in favour of this constitution was, unfortunately, dubious. This was evident from examining the media campaign prior to the Referendum.

Almost no space was given to campaign against the Constitution. And the discussions – in the various media – lacked any serious discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution. Many objective observers question the influence of religion on how voters decided to vote. The lack of diversity in opinions in the public sphere shows the extent to which the space for dialogue has been reduced in Egyptian society and replaced by fixed answers.

A blog by liberal scholar, Dr. Mahmoud Khayyal, stated that he was discouraged to vote in an election in which the outcome was already clear on the first day of voting. He believes many more people must have felt this way. Only 38% of the electorate voted. The non-voters (62%) are both people who felt no need to make an effort to vote and people who boycotted these elections. Some of the non-voters are non-Islamists, like Khayyal, who voted in previous elections but lacked the motivation to do so in this one because the outcome was already obvious.

This is unfortunate. The Constitution would have garnered much more authority if it were accepted in a truly free campaign in which both sides had equal opportunities to express their views.

On Friday, bombs exploded in three different parts of Cairo all seemingly targeting state security. The following day another bomb was thrown at the wall of the Police Training Academy in a Cairo suburb reportedly injuring one person. This is the last in a series of attacks on state institutions that have been claimed by an al-Qaeda-inspired Salafist Jihadist group based in Sinai (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – meaning: Champions of Jerusalem) who claim that the present interim, military-backed government is an “apostate regime”. They don’t seem to be ready to give up in their opposition to the present regime. With the Muslim Brotherhood being pushed underground, this was inevitable. Yet this group has already been condemned by the Brotherhood as they do not hold a similar ideology.

Nonetheless, in Shoubra, where we have the biggest conglomeration of Churches in Egypt, the atmosphere is calm. The people here unequivocally support the military-backed interim government. We see photos of some of the Military leaders, particularly the Defense Minister, General Abdul al-Sisi (59), the quasi-saviour of the country who managed to save it from the Muslim Brotherhood, now considered a terrorist organization. It is presumed that he will stand as a candidate in the next presidential election.

The security situation has improved. Away from the trouble spots things seem to function normally (market, transport, gas, fuel, water, electricity etc). So for the moment we continue to pray for peace. Please join us in prayer and hopefully this transition period will transform Egypt into the beautiful land of the Nile that the whole world admired in the past.