1 February 2013

Egypt: Church Blames Morsi for Protest Deaths

Cairo — The Catholic Church in Egypt has issued a stinging critique of the country's president, accusing him of cynical manipulation of the people, and an act of gross incompetence which caused more than 50 deaths.

Speaking as spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Egypt, Father Antoine Rafic Greiche accused Mohammed Morsi of failing to foresee the need for significant security in protests that turned ugly last weekend. He went on to condemn the Islamist leader's initiatives to dialogue with the people, indicating that the discussions' primary purpose was to create good publicity.

During the interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Fr Greiche said that dissatisfaction with the regime and divisions over its future were threatening to tear the country apart.

In an attack on the Muslim Brotherhood regime's handling of protests in Cairo, the Suez region and other major centres, Fr Greiche said Mr Morsi "must take responsibility for the deaths of those who were killed in the recent unrest... The security forces were unprepared for these protests, even though they were predictable. This is the government's failure."

By Tuesday January 29, more than 50 people had died in violence sparked by protests marking the second anniversary of the revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

Commenting on the violence, Fr Greiche said "The people are dissatisfied with the Islamist regime. Divisions are increasing. The bloody protests in the Suez region and in Cairo show how the country is falling apart."

Fr Greiche attacked Mr Morsi's efforts to dialogue with the people, including minority groups, saying the president "must finally start a national dialogue that is worthy of the name. We had plenty of staged events that were designed to produce nice pictures but were otherwise a waste of time."

Fr Greiche said that the Government's apparent failure to take dialogue seriously had prompted the Catholic Church to pull out of Government-led dialogue events.

Of key concern is the constitution which President Morsi signed into law a month ago in the face of bitter opposition, not least from the Catholic Church which withdrew from the negotiations to draft the document.

In an interview with ACN after the constitution became law, Bishop Kyrillos William, Administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, warned that the "religious orientation of this constitution prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate".

Fr Greiche's comments come after fresh reports of Christians emigrating from Egypt amid an apparent increase in attacks on the faithful. Reports this month describe how thousands of people emerging from a mosque destroyed a Sunday school building under construction in Fayoum.

In a separate incident, on January 18 thousands of Muslim protestors in Qena reportedly attacked eight Coptic Christian homes and businesses, torching Coptic-owned pharmacies and vehicles.

In Beba, Upper Egypt, it is claimed that a church building was forcibly taken over by a criminal gang who sold its contents and converted it into a drugs den.

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