Patriarch: May their cause not be forgotten

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1017_patriarch-cardinal-antonios-naguib-of-alexandria.JPGChurch leader pays tribute to fallen Cairo demonstrators and calls on regime to improve security and ensure equality before the law

By John Pontifex

THE leader of Catholics in Egypt has defended the memory of “honest and sincere” Copts whose protest ended in violence and death and has called on the regime to step up security and do more to uphold the rule of law.
In an official statement about the 9th October pro-Christian demonstrations in Cairo, Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib of Alexandria went on to call on Christians not to be deterred and to continue to “participate” in political action towards the creation of a new Egypt post-Mubarak.
The document, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, underlines the Patriarch’s “full confidence” in the interim military regime after a week of criticism about the government’s response to the demonstrations, which according to latest figures, led to the deaths of about 25 people with 329 injured.
Patriarch Naguib, who is head of Egypt’s 250,000-strong Coptic Catholic Church, writes: “With wounded hearts, we…express our deep sorrow for the bloody events suffered by honest and sincere children of the nation.
“They wanted to contribute to the country’s democratic process with peaceful demonstrations like hundreds of other citizen groups.
“Unfortunately, it ended with the violent death of around 25 people, the vast majority of whom were Copts…”
The violence broke out at the height of the demonstrations as thousands of people – including many Muslims – marched to the state television centre in Cairo, in protest at acts of persecution and oppression against Christians.
The following day, Fr Antoine Rafic Greiche, official spokesman of the Catholic Church in Egypt, implicated the regime, saying that the army and police had “used” a “rabble army” who hit out against the protestors using sticks, stones, swords and rifles.
But making no comment on the security service’s response to the demonstrations, Patriarch Naguib in his letter calls on the regime to renew its commitment to upholding the rule of law.
He writes: “While condemning again all acts of violence, we call on officials to… provide security and safety and uphold the law’s supremacy and ensure the objectivity of the media.
“We have full confidence that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Government and the Judiciary are able to lead the country to stability and security, ensuring the well being and dignity of all its citizens.”
Patriarch Naguib concludes his letter with a clarion call to all Christians not to be deterred by the events of 9th October and to continue to be politically active.
In a reference to parliamentary elections due to start next month, with presidential elections next spring, he said: “We call on [Christians] to participate, in Egypt and abroad, in the current political and electoral process.
“This is a sacred duty which [the Church] is not allowed to abdicate, aiming at establishing a modern, democratic state, based on the law, full citizenship, equality, justice and the guarantee of freedoms.”
Patriarch Naguib’s comments come after Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, issued a statement condemning Egypt’s security services for their response to the demonstrations.
In his statement, last week, Bishop Angaelos said: “The same army that said in January that it would ‘not fire a single shot against an Egyptian citizen’ …now used live ammunition and excessive force in this situation, firing lethal shots to the chest and head while armoured troop carriers were driven directly into crowds, mowing people down and killing many.”
 Bishop Angaelos also called for a public inquiry into the state media, accusing it of biased coverage of the protests and falsely claiming that Christians instigated the violence.

Editor’s Notes

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