The “welcoming” attack on the new Pope and the Church
No sooner had the Church lottery revealed the name of the new Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa on the Holy See of Saint Mark, then seeming hostilities surfaced against him and against the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria which represents the majority of the Christians living in Egypt.
On what was only the 3rd day after the lottery, with the official enthronement party waiting to be held, many agencies already began to show hostility toward the new Pope and the Church. The attacks seem to be systematic and consistent enough to demonstrate collusion between various parties. (Parties to be identified and discussed below.)
Impartially it may be observed that these hostilities seemed to emerge in and through the following coalition:
1.Through the Media
Interviewer Mr. Wael El Ebrashy, who incidentally is considered a moderate, knowledgeable, and having a high degree of knowledge and understanding, conducted an interview together with His Holiness Bishop Bicenti of Helwan representing the Holy Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness Bishop Antonios Aziz representing the Holy Catholic Church and the Reverend Ikram Lammi representing the Protestant Christian Communities. Among other things, he questioned them about their respective positions on the issue of allowing Christians living in Egypt to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When His Holiness Bishop Bicenti suggested that it ought to be allowed, the interviewer, Wael Al Ibrashi interrupted in what can and should be described as a threatening manner and stated that “visiting Jerusalem would represent a normalization of the relationship with Israel” and added “either we have travel to Jerusalem or no travel, normalization with Israel, or no normalization.” Al Ibrashi insinuated that “any “normalization” with Israel would and does cause problems in the relationships between Egyptians and would further the discrimination among Muslims and Christians”. It seemed like an obvious and not to mention totally unnecessary confusing conflation of religion and politics.
We have to ask, “Why politicize a purely religious tradition?” Christians have been practicing pilgrimage to Jerusalem for centuries, and continue to make pilgrimage to this day. This includes Arab Christians who have been there from the very beginning of Christian tradition. Why try and manipulate an already delicate political situation in an attempt to prevent Christians from practicing one of their most cherished traditions which for many would be a dream come true to fulfill?
When Iranian Muslims make the Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia are they considered to be somehow “normalizing” the relationship between the two countries in spite of the tensions between them? Do they suffer any reprisal from their government or backlash from their society for practicing a purely religious tradition?
Again, Christians have been making religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem from the very beginnings of Christianity. According to Christian tradition, Arabs were present in Jerusalem on the Holy Day of Pentecost when the Church began. The traditions and culture of any society are very much the cherished and unwritten laws within that society.
Countries with a respect for human rights such as Canada, seek to respect the traditions and cultures of ALL of its various citizens. In such cases the State protects and guarantees their freedoms and allows them ALL to practice freely their own traditions and to preserve their culture, and practice their religion without fear.
Preventing religious pilgrimages for purely political reasons illustrates clearly in our estimation a severe violation of and restriction of the religious freedom of Christians and a blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Church.
What is most interesting in this particular context, is that even though His Holiness Pope Shenouda III of Blessed Memory, (May His Memory be Eternal) issued an order for His flock to refrain from making this pilgrimage, hostility directed against Christians and their faith has escalated in the past few decades none the less!
2. Through Politics
The “Salafi” group has declared that they will not offer any congratulations the new Pope of Alexandria unless they get some guarantees from him. In other words, they have demands that they want met.
Mr. Hammad, a member of political office suggested that it is not even necessary to congratulate the Pope seeing as it is not Islamic, and does not concern Muslims. During the Mubarak era, the Salafis were considered to be a “fundamentalist” religious group due to the known acts of violence having been committed by the group. They are now considered the 2nd political moving force next to the “Muslim Brotherhood” and work shoulder to shoulder with the brotherhood to establish an Islamic regime of the state. Their political positions carry a heavy influence and weight in internal Egyptian politics.
Their most recent demands were as follows:
1- The Church Should Refrain from any Involvement in Politics
I strongly support this idea that all religious groups inside Egypt including the Salafis ought to refrain from practicing politics.
2- Return the New Muslim Women “Owned” by Salafites
They are referring here to the same women who were shall we say “entangled” in a situation where they, being Christian women, “converted” religions and were taken away from their families by Salafi group members. Egyptian police and State Security intervened and thankfully brought them back to their families. These women felt the need to live in hiding due to having received threats from the Salafi Group. Some international human rights groups investigated some of these cases and concluded that there was a criminal component involved, and that these women had been victims of kidnapping and “human trafficking.”
3- Coptic Activist Organizations Have Ruined the Reputation of Egypt Abroad. Therefore, the Church Must Place all Coptic Activist Organizations under Surveillance, So As to Avoid Creating International Problems and or Incidents for Egypt!!!
4- The Church Must Take a Critical and Deterrent Position With Copts Living Abroad Who are Demanding Foreign Interference or Who Insult Islam through Ex-Communication or expel From the Church !!!!
5- Churches and Monasteries “Must” be placed Under State Supervision. Church Funds Must be Subjected to Supervision by “Central Auditing Agencies.” Like Al Azhar funds. Churches and Monasteries must allow themselves to be inspected by State Security Agencies
The church is an independent body that does not receive funds from the state, contrary to Al Azhar that is completely State supported!
We must ask, do security agencies inspect mosques on regular basis in the same way that they are demanding the churches be inspected?
We ask also, why is it, that the Salafi Group defends Al-Aazhar, and not the Al-Azhar clerics?
3. Through a physical attack on a church
A Salafi Groups attacked and occupied a building used for of services owned by “Shobra Parish.” They placed a sign on top of it and renamed the building “Worshipers of the Merciful Mosque.” The police removed them, but they returned and re-occupied the building, even going so far as to challenge the Christian youth to violence should they protest this injustice. There is no lack of mosques or land in Egypt for the building of mosques, but seems easier to forcibly seize and occupy an already built and ready to use building.
In an interview of the spokesman of the salafi group Dr. Hisham Kamal with Mr. Ezzat Boulis from Coptic united online newspaper , the Salafi spokesman suggested that Christians Must Not Blame the Salafi Group for Acts of Violence Against the Church and Christians, Giving as an Example the Incident of the “Aal Qidiseen Church” in Alexandria.
Some incidents, such as the” Imbaba,” were the work of the Salafi Group. Even if we all together wished to and deny it, the incident was captured on video.