Mohamed Gamal Arafa writes: blame on the Pope and the Church

Mohamed Gamal Arafa writes: blame on the Pope and the Church


During the drafting of the constitution most members of the Constitutional Committee responded to the churches’ various demands that article 2 of the Constitution remain unchanged. They refused Salafist forces’ demands that the words “Sharia jurisprudence” replace “principles of Sharia” in order to reassure the partners in the nation. Their demands were met by the inclusion of an article stating that their laws will govern them, and Church representatives signed the last but one draft. They then issued orders for a “political” withdrawal from the Constitutional Assembly with those withdrawing without any logical justification for this withdrawal!

It is said that the withdrawal came after the passing of article 219, which explains article 2 dealing with Sharia, which latter provides that the principles of Sharia include general evidence, fundamental and jurisprudential rules and credible sources accepted by Sunni schools of Islam and by the greater community”.

Then came the protests in front of the Presidential Palace and the Church made the same mistake it made during the presidential elections when it mobilised its supporters behind (the Feloul) Ahmed Shafiq against President Morsy, and when it mobilised its supporters against the first Constitutional Declaration adopted by the military, claiming that it was with Sharia.

I don’t need to mention here what was reported by American papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post about large Christian crowds (which some estimates put at 15,000) coming out of churches in order to chant against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Guide and President Mohamed Morsy in front of the Presidential Palace. Coptic expat organisations protested in front of the White House in order to take strength from America in toppling the president of their country!

Yes they have the democratic right to demonstrate and protest, but as “citizens”, far removed the political role that was previously played by the Church and that caused the previous tension in a great many Islamist sectors behind the scenes.

Priest Angelos Ishaq, the Pope’s Secretary, denied charges directed against the Church that it mobilised against the President saying, “they are completely untrue” and “the Church is a spiritual, patriotic institution that has no connection with politics”. However, I was careful to mention the opinions of foreign correspondents on the truth of this mobilisation and the political role played by the Church, the raising of the cross and the chants against the President and the Constitution rather than what Islamist activists said about this mobilisation – which is a lot!

I expected Pope Tawadros II to take the Church back to its beautiful spiritual role far removed from incitement against a lawfully elected president and to prevent it riding the “National Burning Front”* bandwagon. I was happy when he invited all national political forces to sit at the dialogue table, and with his call for calm and against resorting to violence. I fear however that if this inflammatory mentality from some angry Copts to mobilise church congregations against the (Islamist) President and against Islamist forces on satellite channels continues, and if the Church continues to play a political role, the intensity of sectarian strife will increase after political strife increases.

I hope that the Church does not – by means of some of its priests and not all its leaders – mobilise again against a legitimately elected president because in the previous two instances it backed the losing horse rather than betting on peaceful coexistence.

And I hope that Pope Tawadros slaps on the wrist those priests who are souring the relationship between Muslims and Christians through political mobilisation and who deliberately lead them through the streets wearing their gowns and setting off from some churches. There is a difference between a Christian citizen protesting next to a Muslim citizen in order to call for his political rights and between senior priests protesting against a legitimately elected president just because he is “Islamist”!

* Translator’s note: the expression is جبهة إحراق مصر  gebhat e7raq masr a play on words on جبهة إتقاذ مصر gebhat enqaz masr or the National Salvation Front.

This was originally published in Arabic on the Freedom and Justice Portal.


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