Copts fear Islamic drift
February 9, 2011
Translated from the article, “I copti temono la deriva islamica,” posted earlier today on the website Oriente Cristiano.
ALEXANDRIA. From our correspondent
The record of that tragic night is still seen on the facade of the Church of the Saints, and the faces of the faithful turn aside from it while leaving mass. All depart in a hurry; away from the walls that are still chipped, from the partly-mutilated statue of the Madonna, from the danger that lurks around every corner. The entrance is blocked by a gate. Inside the courtyard there is an ambulance; “We do not want terrorists to use one for another massacre,” confides a guardian. Before the entry to the church there is a large poster depicting Jesus Christ, with a golden crown on his head and the faces of 23 people; they are the 24 victims of the New Year’s Eve massacre, when a car bomb struck the faithful as they left mass. It was the fiercest of the many attacks against the Copts. To the cry of “down with Mubarak,” thousands of young Copts took to the streets and clashed with police. They accused the president of having failed to protect them; someone called him complicit in the massacre.
It’s been only a month, and now the Christians of Alexandria are caught in a dilemma: participate in the revolt, and demand an end to a regime that has lasted 30 years, or stay home, as called for by their Pope Shenouda III, hoping that the president acts. The very thought that the Muslim Brotherhood could take over is seen as a nightmare. Faced with such a threat, the Copts, 10% of the population, are paralyzed. Aware that they may have to pay a heavy price for having not joined the rebellion (at least 50 people died here).
The archbishops and priests are impenetrable. The pope has forbidden communication with the media. The priest of the Church of the Saints mutters a few words, then disappears. A script that is repeated in five other churches. Ramy, 25, warden of the Church of the Saints, admits: “I am not attending the event. None of us did. Mubarak’s worst is better than the best of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
It’s Sunday; a few kilometers away a huge event is taking place; thousands of people are shouting slogans against Mubarak. The climate, however, is different from that of Cairo’s joyous Tahrir Square. Here the site of the event, which continued yesterday but with fewer protesters, is the ancient Ibrahim mosque. It is easy to guess who holds the reins of the revolt: the Muslim Brotherhood, who have created here their stronghold. “This is the people’s revolution; we are organizing jointly with the April 6 movement and other organizations. We are a single entity,” explains Saber Abu el-Fotouh, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman and former member of parliament. We look for Christians, in vain. In front of the mosque, members of the Brotherhood frisk us several times. “We are and will be respectful of our Coptic brothers,” said Medhat al-Hadad, director of the Brotherhood, from his office. “In two or three months Mubarak will be gone. We will organize free elections. We hope to get 25-35% of the seats. If we are in the government we will allow everyone freedom to profess their faith.”