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Anis: poor conditions could spark new revolution

05 October 2012


Dismayed by attacks on Christians in Egypt: Bishop Mouneer Anis

Dismayed by attacks on Christians in Egypt: Bishop Mouneer Anis

THE chances of Egypt's being shaken by further popular unrest cannot be ruled out, the President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, has said. Any future uprising could be sparked by worsening economic and social conditions, and frustration at the slow pace of change in the aftermath of the revolution that toppled the former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.

"Another revolution may happen," Bishop Anis said in an interview with the Church Times this week. "Not immediately. We are waiting to see what is going to happen. Prices are very high, and many people have no work and no income. It is heartbreaking to see my own people suffering."

Strikes over pay and conditions occur daily, and are spreading. While some holidaymakers are still visiting resorts in the Red Sea, tourism elsewhere has evaporated, directly or indirectly affecting the livelihoods of millions of Egyptians. Foreign investors have not returned to the country since the revolution, and the state's coffers are dangerously low.

The mood in Egypt as a whole is subdued, as people wait to see what changes President Mohammed Morsi and his government introduce.

For Christian and secular Egyptians, economic worries are compounded by anxieties about the country's political future. The body charged with writing a new constitution is dominated by Islamists.

"What we are hearing about the discussions in the constitutional commission is very alarming," Bishop Anis said. "The constitution will define the way the new Egypt looks. It should guard the rights of the nation as a whole, but it sounds to me that the constitution will reflect the interests of the majority, without giving attention to how minorities might play a role."

When asked to comment on how life for Christians in Egypt had changed since the revolution, Bishop Anis said: "Christians before the revolution were somewhat oppressed. They had no right to build places of worship. They were never appointed to top jobs, especially in the army and security services, and in universities. Their representation in parliament was small. What has changed since the revolution? Nothing."

The government had made "lots of promises, but so far we have not seen any results". Before the revolution, "we felt that we were oppressed, in the same way that the Islamists were. Now they are in power, we thought they would feel for others who were oppressed, and give them the freedom and rights they were deprived of. But we are still waiting."

Bishop Anis said that there was also dismay that the security authorities were still failing to investigate attacks on Christians and church property. Over the past two years, there had been many such incidents, but few people had been brought to justice. Another concern was the growing confidence and prominence of Salafists, who regarded Christians as inferior. While the Muslim Brotherhood was broadly pragmatic in outlook, "Salafists treat us like dhimmis [second-class citizens]. Their view is that if we are not happy here, we should leave."

Many Copts and other Christians had already decided to emigrate, Bishop Anis said. Unofficial estimates put the figure at 100,000 during 2011 alone. "I know from my own experience within the small Anglican community that emigration last year was ten times more than the total over the previous decade."

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