What will Protect the Copts?
|Sunday, September 27,2009 14:43|
For years I worked in the same clinic as a Coptic dentist and we quickly become friends. He was a good man, honest in his work and in his dealings with people, but like many Egyptians he was completely detached from public affairs and was not aware of most political events. As far as he was concerned, the limits of the world were his work and his family. Then the last elections came around and I was surprised to find him away from work. When I asked him why, he said he had gone to vote for President Mubarak.
I thought that strange and I asked him: “Why did you vote when you know that these elections have been rigged, as usual?” After a brief pause, he answered with his usual candour: “In fact at church they asked us to vote for the president and they organized buses to take us there and bring us back.” I remembered this story when I was reading the recent remarks by Pope Shenouda, who twice in one week has declared his support for Gamal Mubarak as the next president of Egypt. So it’s now clear that the Egyptian church endorses the idea that President Mubarak’s son Gamal should inherit the presidency of our country from his father – a phenomenon which is unique in the history of Egypt and which merits some debate:
Firstly, Pope Shenouda represents a spiritual rather than a political authority as the spiritual head of the Copts and not their political leader. So, with full respect, I maintain that he is exceeding his authority when he speaks politically on behalf of the Copts, and if we are campaigning to set up a secular state in Egypt in which citizens have full rights regardless of their religion, that requires separating religion from politics – the complete opposite of what Pope Shenouda has done. He has used his religious status to impose his political position on the Copts, thereby usurping their right to express their political opinions, which may not necessarily match his own opinion.
Pope Shenouda’s recent position, unfortunately, sends the regime a message that the Copts favour despotism and the inheritance of power in exchange for the regime meeting their demands, as though the Pope were saying to President Mubarak: “Give us Copts the privileges we demand and then do what you like with the remaining Egyptians, because they are of no concern to us.”
The patriotic church at the time, after a single meeting, issued a statement dissociating itself from the position of Youssef Wahba and asserting that he represented only himself, whereas the Copts, like all other Egyptians, stood with the revolution and its leader. In fact a Coptic student from a wealthy family, Aryan Youssef Saad, threw a bomb at the motorcade of Prime Minister Youssef Wahba to give voice to the nation’s protest at his betrayal. Dar El Shorouk recently published the memoirs of Aryan Youssef and I hope Pope Shenouda finds time to read it, so that he can be proud, as we are all proud, of the patriotism of the Copts. Youssef Wahba Pasha was amazed when he discovered that the man who attacked his motorcade was a Copt like him, and he asked him: “Why did you do that, kid?” Aryan replied without hesitation: “Because you went against the consensus of the nation, pasha.” Overnight Aryan Youssef became a national hero throughout Egypt, and when he was arrested and detained for questioning all the officers and policemen referred to him as the hero. Even the prosecutor general himself, after questioning Aryan on a charge of throwing a bomb at the prime minister’s motorcade, stood up at his desk, shook Aryan’s hand and embraced him, saying: “May God protect you, my child. You are a patriot who loves Egypt. This Egyptian spirit we must restore today so that we can accomplish what we wish for Egypt and what Egypt deserves of us.
” I hope His Grace Pope Shenouda understands that the aim of protecting Copts cannot be achieved by transforming them into a group separate from other Egyptians, in collusion with the despotic regime which oppresses and abuses people. This way of thinking is completely alien to the patriotic history of the Copts. So what will protect the Copts? That will come about when they consider themselves Egyptians before they are Christians, and when they understand that their duty as Egyptians is to join the battle for a just state which treats all citizens equally, regardless of the religion they believe in. Justice alone will protect the Copts. They cannot demand justice for themselves to the exclusion of others, and they cannot obtain it alone at the expense of the Muslims. Justice must be achieved for all and justice comes about only through democracy, for democracy is the solution.