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Primates call for prayers for Egypt

19 July 2013


Stand-off: army soldiers stand guard near the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, on Monday

Stand-off: army soldiers stand guard near the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, on Monday

THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have combined calls for prayers for an end to violence in Egypt, and for unity and reconciliation.

While an interim prime minister and cabinet have been appointed as part of the transition back to open democracy, the anger of supporters of the deposed President Morsi has not abated. They have kept up huge street protests in Cairo and elsewhere, and at least seven people were killed in clashes on Monday night. Attacks on Christians and Christian property have also been reported.

Archbishop Welby and Dr Sentamu, in a letter sent last week to the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, and to the President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, said that they had been "very mindful of recent developments taking place in Egypt" as they presided over the General Synod in York.

They added that they were sending a "message of committed solidarity with you at this time. We join in the call to pray for Egypt, for unity and reconciliation and the ending to all violence, praying that all parties may be able to work together for a common future."

The organisation Release International, which highlights the persecution of Christians worldwide, has also called for spiritual support for Christians in Egypt. The organisation's chief executive, Paul Robinson, said: "Please pray that God will protect and sustain Christians in Egypt in this time of mounting unrest. Pray that they will know the reality of his peace, and for an end to the violence."

The public support expressed by Egyptian Christian leaders for the army intervention that ousted President Morsi has angered Islamists, and has led to a number of acts of violence against the Christian community. One of the most serious was in the village of Naga Hassan, west of Luxor. A row between a Muslim and a Copt resulted in the killing of four Christians, and the destruction of 20 homes.

The country now has an interim administration, but its members reveal some of the problems that lie ahead. The interim President is a senior judge - part of the judiciary that was so much at odds with the Morsi presidency. Egypt now has one liberal economist as prime minister, and another as finance minister. A former ambassador to the United States is foreign minister, and a former UN diplomat, Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent secularist figure in Egypt, is vice-president for foreign affairs. So a very liberal, even Western-orientated, interim government has been formed.

The administration that governed Egypt until the military coup was radically different: from the President downwards, most of the significant posts were in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. In other words, there has been the wholesale removal of one administration, representing up to half of Egyptian society, and its replacement by a government that represents the other half.

The likelihood is that the army will continue to play an important part, both in attempting to maintain law and order, and in urging as many groups as possible to engage with the political process. One of the military's main aims will be to woo back at least one Islamist group, to give Egyptian politics the air of inclusiveness.

But it is difficult to imagine stability returning to Egypt while the Muslim Brotherhood and the military are at loggerheads. The Brotherhood has three main options: to keep up its insistence that Mr Morsi be reinstated; to swallow its current humiliation and contest future elections to try to retake power; or to operate again as a clandestine group, seeking to expand its social roots while undermining the government.

For the moment, there seems no chance that the Brotherhood will take the advice of the US envoy William Burns, who urged Egyptians on Monday, during a visit to Cairo, to take up a "second chance to realise the promise of the revolution" that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

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