Bishop Yohanna Kalta, deputy patriarch of the Catholic Church in Egypt, has expressed concern that rule of the Muslim Brotherhood may develop into another autocratic regime.
“I am not against the Muslim Brotherhood, but they are now controlling all state institutions and this could possibly lead to the emergence of some form of communal dictatorship,” he told Al Arabiya’s al-Hadath al-Masry (The Egyptian Event) program.
Kalta, who is also the representative of the Catholic Church in the Constituent Assembly in charge of drafting Egypt’s post-revolution constitution, attributed religious tension in Egypt to what he called “a medieval mentality.”
“It is only through changing this mentality that the gap between Muslims and Christians can be bridged.”
Kalta stressed that despite fears on the part of Egyptian Christians and alarming reports of persecution in the media, Egypt will never be divided.
“Egypt has always been united geographically, politically, and religiously. There has never been a civil war in Egypt throughout its history and this proves how stable it is and how all Egyptians can coexist peacefully.”
As a member of the Constituent Assembly, Kalta said that Christians want the new constitution to stress the civilian character of the state and protect the right of minorities.
“I wish there will be no mention of the religion of the state in the constitution, but the Muslim majority insist on that so we are not going to start a conflict about it.”
Kalta explained that Article Two of the constitution, which says that Islam is the religion of the state and Islamic principles are the main source of legislation, should remain the same as in the 1971 constitution, in reference to the controversy about replacing the word “principles” with “laws” and which risks the application of “hudud,” harsh penalties for specific crimes.
“The new constitution also includes several articles that protect Christians and give them the right to practice their faith and resort to their scriptures in certain matters.”
However, he added, it is important for Christians to reach the point of not worrying even if the Sharia (Islamic law) is applied.
“We are in need of a new form of Islamic jurisprudence that addresses contemporary issues and eliminates this Muslim-Christian or East-West divide so that neither Christians nor liberals will be afraid of applying Islamic laws.”
Regarding current concerns about the safety of Christians in Egypt, Kalta noted that it is the lack of security that poses the biggest threat.
“Despite ongoing efforts on the part of the Interior Ministry to restore law and order, villages and small towns are still suffering from the lack of security and in many cases the victims are Christians.”
Although the drafting of the constitution has been triggering a spat of disputes, Kalta pointed out, the Constituent Assembly has given Muslims and Christians a chance to get closer.
“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood realized that Christians are not evil and that they are ordinary Egyptian citizens. I also have seen the group’s way of thinking undergoing some changes.”
Kalta stressed his belief in dialogue as the best way to draft legislations that grant Christians their rights.
“We will never resort to confrontations or even demonstrations.”
Kalta said he believes President Mohamed Mursi to be a wise man who is just confused.
“He wants to do something for Egypt, but he is still not sure how to start.”