Egypte: “Islamic movements want power”

Source: FSSPX News

On February 4, the Vatican information agency Fides quoted Bishop Youhannes Zakaria, bishop of the Coptic Catholics of Luxor, in Upper Egypt: “The situation is calm because the whole population of Luxor, Christians and Muslims, works in the tourism field.” “It is in the interest of all to avoid disorder in order to preserve tourism.  Unfortunately, there are scarcely any tourists.  The first to pay for this are the poorest workers who find themselves without work and without a salary.”  “It is especially the youth who have no prospects for the future that are at the head of the revolt.  The media has played a role in unleashing their rage because it diffused the culture of the short-lived and of consumerism into a country that has a large number of poor people.”  “What is happening now in Egypt could also happen in any other country where there exists as strong a social and economic contrast,” concluded Bishop Zakaria.

In Egypt, Muslim movements including the Muslim Brothers “want power”, stated Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit, professor of Islamology and Arabian culture in Beyrouth (Liban), on the Vatican Radio on January 30.  “About 40% of the Egyptian population lives in conditions of absolute poverty, they do not have even two dollars per person per day.  In a year, the prices have gone up from 5 to 30 times.”  In the face of this, “the government is doing little...And from this arises the danger of Islam, because the fundamentalist Islamic movements, including the Muslim Brothers and others, have understood that to win votes, it suffices to promote social works.”  “The Muslim Brothers were founded in 1928 for this very purpose: to create truly Islamic countries, because they think that Egypt is too much influenced by the Occident, that it is not sufficiently Muslim.”  “Therefore they want the power to realize the reforms that they consider to be the best for the people and that others consider to be the worst,” he explains.  “The regime of Moubarak, from the very beginning, forbade these political groups but that does not limit the radius of their action.  They enter into other parties under any name whatsoever to propose Islamic politics.”

But, added Fr. Samir, Egypt is a moderate country, and by nature, “the Egyptian is not a rebel.  He simply wants to live.”  Deep reforms are necessary, for the Egyptian school, for example, is in a catastrophic situation, with many illiterates arriving on the work market.  “The reality is that we are not far from being 40% illiterate.”

Benedict XVI intervened publicly during the Angelus on Sunday, February 6: “These days, I am following closely the delicate situation in this dear Egyptian nation,” he confided, asking God “that this land blessed by the presence of the Holy Family, may once again know tranquility and peaceful cohabitation, thanks to a shared commitment to the common good.”

Bishop Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria and primate of the Coptic Catholic Church warned against the rise of a religious government in Egypt. If such were to be the case, all the benefits drawn from the relations between Christians and Muslims would be lost and society could suffer because of it, he declared in an email to the American Catholic press agency CNA. However, if events lead to the constitution of a laicized government, based on equality, civic rights, and the law, this would be, in the prelate’s eyes, a historic achievement. Bishop Naguib had called on the Egyptians to return to peace and order, asking that all return to their homes and their work. He also said he was impressed by the commitment of many young people. The revolt had been initiated by young people who happened to be on the internet, where many demonstrators were “recruited” on websites.

Catholics, who represent a very small minority, are not likely to play an important part in the deliberations on the future of Egypt. The Egyptian authorities consider Patriarch Chenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church as the spokesman of Christian minority in the country. Members of the Coptic community expressed understanding and respect for the demonstrators. Ten thousand Christians and Muslims remembered, on February 6 on Tahrir Square in El Cairo, the victims of this “revolution”. One after the other, a Coptic priest and a Muslim religious authority prayed, sang, and mourned over their dead. According to the United Nations, the number of deaths since January 25th comes to over 200 throughout the whole country. The Health Ministry is speaking of 5,000 wounded.

On February 11, 2011, Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt since 2006, expressed his thoughts to the press agency Zenit, 18 days after the demonstrations began. The Archbishop reminded his listeners that every human community needs an authority to govern it, but (…) this community “must act for the common good, using morally licit means.” Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he declared, “The common good is composed of three essential aspects: respect and promotion of the fundamental rights of the human person; prosperity or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.” Concerning interreligious dialogue, the prelate answered that “the events of recent weeks have produced a feeling of solidarity between Christians and Muslims. This should provide a good basis for increased dialogue and cooperation in Egyptian society.”

For information, Egypt has a population of 84 million inhabitants spread over 145,000 square kilometers of inhabitable land, mainly in the Nile Valley, on a total surface area of one million square kilometers. Nearly 50% of the population is under 24 years of age, and the Christians, mostly Copts, represent hardly 10% of the total population, of whom 5% are Catholic. (Sources: apic/fides/imedia/radiovatican/kna – DICI, issue number 230, February 19, 2011)

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