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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Christians in Egypt torn between church and citizenship - Middle East Monitor

Najwan Al Ashol, Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid 29 April, 2014

The January 25th Revolution in 2011 represented a real challenge to the structure of tyranny in Egypt at all levels, especially to the dominance of the Coptic Church and its distorted relationship with the Hosni Mubarak regime. Consequently, the church did not welcome the revolution and forbade its members from participating in the Tahrir Square demonstrations, deeming it as one of the greatest sins unpardonable by God, in this world and the hereafter.

It remains such that the relationships between the church and Christian Egyptians on one hand, and the church and the state on the other, see controversial issues rarely addressed fairly in research and media projects. It is too complex to address all the various aspects in one article, but I hope to shed light on one significant aspect, that of the intimate relationship between the Coptic Church and the repressive state apparatus, at the expense of the citizenship of the Christians in Egypt.

With the eruption of the revolution, the Christians called for their complete citizenship rights, meaning simply equality in rights and duties, both individual and collective. They also asked that this citizenship needs to exclude the church from the dealings between Christian citizens and the state, turning the it back into a religious institution only, involved with religious and spiritual matters and detached completely from politics. Henceforth, the church had no right to consider itself a representative of Christians and influence their political choices towards a particular presidential candidate or party. It is not the church's right to be a mediator between Christian citizens and the state in the acquisition of their political rights and social and economic development, such as building houses of worship.

As a result, a number of Egyptian Christian groups have emerged, which talk openly, clearly and publicly about freedom from the church or revolting against it. This is a serious challenge to the Coptic Church and its legitimacy, just as it is a serious challenge to the deep state apparatus which benefits from having the Christians kept under the cloak of the church, dealing with them through it alone; this makes it easier to repress and use them as and when the deep state pleases.

Pope Shenouda received a lot of criticism from young Christians regarding his relationship with state institutions, with indications emerging of an approaching citizenship revolution of the Christians against the Coptic Church, emanating from the people's revolution in Tahrir Square. This was further impetus for the church to enter into an alliance with the state, regardless of there being a history of the state persecuting Christians and the church. The legitimacy of the two institutions are at stake, with the outbreak of the revolution affecting the minds of Egyptian Christians.

Read full article here:

Christians in Egypt torn between church and citizenship
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