By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Minority Christians were among millions in Egypt demanding President Mohammed Morsi’s resignation on Monday, July 1, amid concerns their nation was moving rapidly towards a hardline Islamic state after at least 16 people died in several days of massive nationwide protests.
Amid the mounting tensions, the Egyptian military announced on television it was giving President Morsi and opposition leaders 48 hours to settle their differences and agree on a path forward. “If they don’t,” the military said, it “will issue its own plan” for Egypt’s future.
That did little to ease demonstrators who were earlier seen storming the Cairo headquarters of President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, after Sunday’s largest protests the nation has seen since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
Arabic-language media quoted the Interior Ministry saying the crowds in Cairo and other cities across Egypt totaled as many as 3 million people, though other estimates spoke of several times that number.
Demonstrators are calling on the president to step down, and for new elections to be held. Many Christians have joined the protests, saying discrimination and violence against minority faiths have increased since Morsi took office, church leaders said.
“Most of the Christians do not want the president,” said priest Rafic Greiche, the spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Egypt. “We have to be clear about this. Most of the Christians have felt during this year that nothing of his promises toward the Christians has been implemented,” Greiche said in comments aired by Vatican Radio.
“And it is very important to know that this year nearly every day we have a sectarian problem: Burning churches, deporting people, and this big attack on the Copt Orthodox cathedral that happened two months ago.”
Morsi has said on some occasions he condemned violence against Christians. who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 83-million population. He earlier renewed offers via allies of dialogue and pledged to work with a new parliament if disputes over election rules can be ironed out. But critics say he has so far offered no substantial concessions.
Rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) told BosNewsLife that “Egypt stands on a precipice and whether it tilts toward an Islamic State or a democratic and free one is being worked out in the streets.”
Hal Meawad, a spokesman for advocacy group Coptic Solidarity, which represents “Copts” as most Egyptian Christians are called, said that Morsi should realize “He is not the president of the majority [but] was only voted in by 14 percent of Egyptians.”
The “economic collapse” under the Morsi government, the “growing Islamization” of the country, and the “abuses of human rights” are at the center of the protests, he said in a statement distributed by ICC.
“The country is suffering in every area of life, unemployment is sky-rocketing. There is no security. The country is suffering from a total breakdown of law and order. The only industry that is booming is kidnapping for ransom,” Meawad added.
Though there is concern that the removal of another president will led to more political turmoil, Christians and other oppisition groups claim he has lost his legitimacy.
Despite alleged pressure from Morsi to keep Christians from joining, many took part, as they have been “especially abused” during his year in office, said Meawad.
“Christians were struggling under Mubarak; but there is a huge difference between Mubarak rule and Brotherhood rule. Morsi and the Brotherhood want to establish an Islamic state in Egypt. Now we have active persecution. We have the government actively participating in the persecution.”
ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, Todd Daniels, told BosNewsLife that the opposition protests represent “a huge swath of society that are opposed to Morsi and his Moslim Brotherhood’s Islamist government.”
He said Morsi’s “Islamist agenda” has “alienated large segments of the population, pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse, and contributed to a culture of violence and abuse especially directed toward Christians.”
However he cautioned that “Whether this movement leads to a new government and fundamental rights for all of its citizens remains to be seen.”
ICC warned that the Muslim Brotherhood “has been waiting in the wings for 80 years–they will not go down without a fight and they are absolutely not afraid to use brutality” against Christians and others deemed dangerous for their power base.
In a sign Moslim Brotherhood would not leave easily, its spokesman Gehad el Haddad accused Egypt’s national police force of not responding to pleas to intervene when the group’s headquarters building came under attack.
Haddad warned that the Brotherhood would consider “setting up an armed militia” to defend its party offices.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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