Last Updated: Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:48 am (KSA) 08:48 am (GMT)

Egypt’s Islamists should follow Pope Shenouda III

Mohsen Araishi

Pope Shenouda III, who died in March this year after more than 40 years as patriarch, must be turning in his grave because of the Muslim Brothers’ (MB) appeal for help from Washington in their power struggle with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, the powerful and wealthy MB man Khairat el-Shater (let us keep on calling him el-Shater the Conqueror) banged the saucepans and pots, calling for Washington-led international pressure on the SCAF to give in and return to the barracks.

The SCAF’s premature departure would definitely leave a security vacuum in the country, since the traumatised police forces are still licking their wounds after the painful blows they were dealt during the January 25 Revolution. A team of MB’s Freedom and Justice Party went to Washington to determine Egypt’s destiny in the post-Mubarak era.

Acting like invaders, Islamists are camping in Tahrir Square until they receive the signal from el-Shater the Conqueror to ram military, judiciary, legislative and police fortresses. The MB’s infantry in Tahrir Square is raising deafening chants of Jihad (holy war) and waving black banners inscribed with religious war slogans complementing the chants.

In the meantime, several MB leaders including Mahmoud Ghouzlan beat their drums and threaten with civil war unless the Islamists are given the reins of the nation and can fulfil the dream of declaring a Muslim Caliphate. Egypt will only be safe from the threat of a bloody civil war in the style of Syria, Sudan and Libya if the Islamists learn the lesson from late Pope Shenouda III.

This Pope will always be vividly remembered by Egyptian Muslims and Copts. He championed national unity bravely and honestly and dedicated his 40-year episcopate relentlessly and patiently to mending the torn fabric of Egypt’s national unity.

Although he was shepherding the Coptic minority in Muslim-dominated Egypt, Pope Shenouda refused to remove his ‘National Unity’ banners and appealed instead for help from the Christian West. His sense of national identity did not wane when hundreds of Copts were massacred during brutal and inhumane attacks perpetrated by Islamist radicals.

Several churches were also burnt down. There have been many brutalities against Copts in Egypt. In the 1980s and 90s for example, Islamist radicals attacked monasteries, Copts’ homes, stores and villages in Upper Egypt and rural areas in the north. In the late 90s, five churches, two charity organisations and more than 30 businesses owned by Copts were ransacked and torched.

On New Year’s Eve last year, the Two Saints Church in Alexandria was bombed and 24 worshippers got killed.

A year before, Christians celebrating New Year’s Eve in a church in the Upper Egyptian town of Naga Hammadi, Qena, were attacked by a Muslim gunman, who killed nine Coptic worshippers. Pope Shenouda did not allow romances between Coptic girls and Muslim boys.

He never wavered in his conviction about the supremacy of Egypt’s national unity and its overriding interests. Islamists with sick minds, including Salafists, apparently got romantically involved with Coptic girls for the sole purpose of disgracing Christianity, or they eloped with emotionally vulnerable Coptic wives and teenagers.

From the beginning, the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution did not augur well for Egypt’s Copts. Salafists torched churches in Imbaba, Giza and in the village of Soul.

Even prior to the revolution, in January 2000, 20 Copts and a Muslim were killed in a street fight in the predominantly Coptic town of el-Kosheh in southern Egypt. In February 2001, Muslims torched a newly built church and the homes of 35 Christians.

Despite all these horrible acts inflicted on his people, the pontiff firmly ignored pressure from Copts abroad, who held mass demonstrations to persuade the international community to intervene and help protect the Coptic minority in Egypt from religious persecution.

Pope Shenouda’s relentless pro-national unity campaign led to scathing criticism from Christians at home and abroad.

He was accused of having a relationship of subservience with president Hosni Mubarak’s regime to protect his patriarchate from his opponents in the Church. Pope Shenouda’s famous statement “Egypt is not the country we live in but the motherland that lives within us” is now indelibly fixed in the collective memory of the Egyptian people.

Mohsen Araishi, a prominent columnist, his article was first published in The Egyptian Gazette on June 24

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