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Egyptian Bishop Says Violence Will Not Stop Constitutional Referendum

Investigators check a damaged bus after a bomb blast near Al Azhar University campus in Cairo on 26 December. The attack was one of several in Egypt since the military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July and the ensuing crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters) 

26 Dec 2013 – By James Martone

CAIRO (CNS) — A 26 December attack in Cairo and other violence will not keep Egypt from going ahead with its planned referendum on a new constitution, said Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, Egypt.

“These explosions will not prevent the mass mobilization for the referendum on the constitution. On the contrary, they increase our determination … to follow through with advancing the nation,” Bishop Mina told the Egyptian online newspaper, Al Youm Al Sabea, after an explosion hit a Cairo bus, wounding five people.

The attack was one of several Egypt has witnessed since the military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last July and the ensuing crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which the interim government labeled as a terrorist group on 25 December.

On 24 December, a suicide car bomber attacked a police facility in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people.

Bishop Mina strongly condemned “the terrorist attacks” he said were taking a toll on Egypt’s civilians, according to the newspaper report.

In an interview earlier in December, the bishop told Catholic News Service that the negative effects of dictatorship, corruption and theft in Egypt would take decades to overcome but that the country’s new constitution was a step in the right direction.

The bishop was one of 50 people on a national assembly tasked with producing a draft for a new constitution, which the group finished in early December. The draft will be put to a nationwide referendum on 14-15 January.

“The new generation grew up with no democracy and with corruption, selfishness, egotism and theft, where the clever takes advantage of his peers. All the morals that disappeared will take a long time to return, not in a year, or 10, but it can take 30 or 40 years,” Bishop Mina told Catholic News Service at his residence in the satellite city on 6 October, 20 miles outside the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

He said it would take sustained improvements in education, increased democracy and a general “respect in society for all Egyptians,” regardless of creed, in order for the predominantly Muslim country to rebuild and prosper, and that the new constitution could set the tone for this to happen, if “properly implemented.”

“Will this constitution … be put aside in a pretty cover in some office somewhere? If it stays only words on paper, it will be a big loss for Egypt. But if it starts to be properly implemented on the ground, it will be the best constitution for this country,” said Bishop Mina.

The new draft constitution is meant to replace one passed by Morsi and paves the way for new parliamentary and presidential elections.

The document lacks the Islamist-inspired provisions of the constitution approved while Morsi was still in office last year and restricts the formation of political parties based on religion.

It offers more civil liberties but also further strengthens the autonomy of the country’s military, which overthrew Morsi following mass protests against him.

Several concerned human rights groups have said the draft of Egypt’s new constitution still falls short of meeting the country’s international rights obligations.

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Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Coptic Catholic Church Egypt's Christians Egypt's Bishops