By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egyptian church leaders have accused the country’s Islamic president, Mohamed Morsi, of “gross incompetence” after more than 50 people died in protests against his leadership and separate anti-Christian violence.
Among the latest victims was a 28-year-old Egyptian protester who died Monday, February 4, following alleged police mistreatment.
Official hospital records showed Mohamed el-Guindy died of injuries sustained in a car crash. However fellow activists claimed he was taken away January 27 from Cairo’s Tahrir Square by police who strangled him with a cord and beat him until his ribs and jaw cracked. He was abandoned four days later at a hospital in central Cairo, activists said.
The violence, which began late last month, overshadowed the second anniversary of the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and added to anxiety among minority Christians who fear Morsi’s “Muslim Brotherhood regime” will tear the country apart.
A spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Egypt said President Morsi “must take responsibility for the deaths of those who were killed” in the recent unrest.
SECURITY FORCES UNPREPARED
“The security forces were unprepared for these protests, even though they were predictable,” said spokesman Antoine Rafic Greiche in comments published by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “This is the government’s failure,” he added.
Greiche, a priest, said the “bloody protests in the Suez region and in Cairo show how the country is falling apart.”
The comments come amid fresh reports of Christians emigrating from Egypt following increased attacks on the faithful, ACN said. “Reports this month describe how thousands of people emerging from a mosque destroyed a Sunday school building under construction in Fayoum,” explained ACN, which has close knowledge about the situation.
In a separate incident on January 18, thousands of Muslim protesters in Qena reportedly attacked eight Coptic Christian homes and businesses, torching Coptic-owned pharmacies and vehicles.
BUILDING FORCIBLY TAKEN
In Beba, Upper Egypt, a church building was apparently “forcibly taken over by a criminal gang who sold its contents and converted it into a drugs den,” ACN explained.
Greiche criticized Morsi’s proclaimed efforts for a dialogue with others, including minority groups such as Christians. “We had plenty of staged events that were designed to produce nice pictures but were otherwise a waste of time,” he stressed, referring to the recent violent incidents.
He said the government’s apparent failure to take debate seriously prompted the Catholic Church to pull out of Government-led talks on a new constitution and other “dialogue events.”
Christian leaders say the constitution, which President Morsi signed into law a month ago, contributed to a tense atmosphere as it gives more power to hard-line Islamists and limits freedom.
BISHOP RECENT WARNINGS
Bishop Kyrillos William, Administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, warned in recent remarks that the “religious orientation of this constitution prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate”.
There is concern within the Coptic minority, which comprises up to 10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people, that these developments will lead to more attack against churches.
In one of the most bloodiest attacks targeting Christians some 28 people were killed and over 200 injured when police and military violently dispersed a large group of mainly Coptic demonstrators who had gathered outside the state television offices in Maspero to protest the demolition of a church in Upper Egypt.
The October, 2011, bloodshed became known as the Maspero Massacre, named after the area where the violence took place.