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Egypt’s Christians Cautious About Islamist’s Victory

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New Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi speaks during his first televised address to the nation at the Egyptian Television headquarters in Cairo 24 June. Christians expressed caution about Morsi's election, saying they hope he will follow through on his pledge to serve all Egyptians. (Photo: CNS/stringer via Reuters)  

26 Jun 2012 – by Michael Gunn

CAIRO (CNS) — Christians expressed caution about the election of Islamist Mohammed Morsi as Egypt’s new president, saying they hope he will follow through on his pledge “to be a president for all Egyptians.”

“We have to accept Morsi and now we will see what he will do,” said Michel Agram, 45-year-old worshipper at the Melkite Catholic Church in Cairo’s Heliopolis district June 24.

“Not all Egypt wants Morsi. You can see that from the results,” Agram said of the narrow 882,000-vote margin of victory over Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. “I would hope he (Morsi) knows this and will act accordingly.”

The election of Morsi, 60, chairman of the Islamic Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, has fed fears among Christians and more liberal Muslims that the Islamists will use their political mandate to impose conservative restrictions on dress and behavior.

A statement to Morsi from the Coptic Catholic Church June 25 praised his apparent “willingness ... to work with skilled people of all groups and sectors of society to achieve the common good.”

“We pray that the Lord gives you success ... in developing the institutions necessary for the realization of a modern democratic civil state — a state that respects the rights and freedoms of everyone and guarantees security, peace and social justice.”

The June 24 declaration of Morsi as the winner of the June 16-17 vote followed a week of uncertainty in which Egypt’s military ruling council introduced constitutional amendments that stripped the presidency of most of its powers and disbanded Parliament, giving the generals legislative authority and oversight in the drafting of the constitution. The military police also were granted broad powers to detain civilians.

The military council promised to turn over power to the new president by June 30.

Prior to the election announcement, Coptic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, Egypt, told Catholic News Service he did not think Morsi “will have so much authority.”

“The army’s moves mean he doesn’t have a constitution or Parliament to help him,” the bishop said.

“From the beginning the army promised a civil state. It was essentially a guarantee,” he added.

Shafiq’s avowed secularism and pledge to use a firm hand to restore security had won him the backing of many Christian voters. He also was the military council’s preferred candidate.

For his part, Morsi promised a “civil, democratic, constitutional and modern state.” He has said his administration will include women and minorities in key positions, pledges met with skepticism by many Christians.





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Tags: Egypt Middle East Christians Christian-Muslim relations Arab Spring Copts