THE people of Egypt, Christians as well as Muslims, are coming
to terms with the dramatic developments on Wednesday, when the army
removed President Mohammed Morsi from power, and suspended the
constitution. The next morning, the country's senior judge, Adli
Mansour, was sworn in as the country's interim president to replace
Mr Morsi, who is in military detention. The military said that he
had "failed to meet the demands of the people".
The new head of state has powers to issue constitutional decrees
during the interim period, and the army is stressing that its
intervention is not a coup that would put the country under
The road map presented by the military envisages, among other
things, the formation of a technocrat government, the creation of a
body to review proposed changes to the constitution, and the
holding of new presidential elections.
Opponents of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood rejoiced
on the streets of Cairo and other cities on Wednesday night when
they heard that the army had intervened. But supporters of the
former president vowed to keep up street protests until the former
head of state, who had been elected in a free and fair poll, was
returned to office.
Dozens of people have been killed and injured in clashes between
pro- and anti-Morsi groups, and between Muslim Brotherhood members
and the security forces. Further days or weeks of clashes seem
As the protests began on 28 June, the President-Bishop in
Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, said:
"We do not know what is going to happen, but we know that we are at
the edge of something drastic." In a statement on Tuesday morning
of last week Bishop Anis welcomed the fact that "Egypt is now free
at last from the oppressive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood," adding
that the army had taken "the side of the millions of Egyptians who
demonstrated in the streets against President Morsi and the Muslim
Bishop Anis described the military's move as "an answer to the
prayers of so many people from around the world who were praying
for our beloved country, Egypt. Please continue to pray for
protection from the violent reaction of the Islamists, which
already has started. Pray also for unity and reconciliation, after
more than one year of divisions."
The army's plea to President Morsi on Monday to heed the wishes
of the protesters was supposed to present an opportunity for
dialogue, and a peaceful resolution of the crisis. But President
Morsi, in a series of defiant and confrontational speeches,
insisted that, as the democratically elected head of state, he
would not be pressured by the military or anyone else to leave
office. Muslim Brotherhood leaders told their supporters to be
prepared to die to defend the President.
Whatever its failings in government, the Muslim Brotherhood
represents the sole organised and structured political force in the
land, with the support of at least one third of the electorate.
Aggrieved at being forced out of office by what they are calling a
military coup, the Brotherhood will dig in for a long struggle to
regain power - if necessary, by subverting whatever group takes
over government. In other words, the intervention of the army will
not necessarily bring the calm that the vast majority of Egyptians
There was a feeling throughout Egypt that last weekend would
mark the climax of the mounting tension between the two forces in
the country's politics. Public despair over the failure of the
President and his government to deal with growing lawlessness and
worsening economic problems prompted the formation of a populist
protest movement, Tamarrod (meaning "rebellion" in Arabic).
Most supporters of this movement objected to President Morsi's
Islamist agenda, and accused him of acting for the Muslim
Brotherhood rather than the nation as a whole.
For Egyptian Christians, the Islamisation of society at the
expense of minority communities has obviously been one of the main
concerns. Bishop Anis said last week that "some Islamists
threatened Christians if they participated in the demonstrations.
Others produced a fatwa saying that those who would demonstrate are
'kafiroon' or 'godless', and deserve to be fought against."
Bishop Anis went on to say that "many had hoped that Egypt would
move forward for the better" when a President was freely elected a
year ago. "However, things became worse, and are now very
difficult. Egyptians became divided between Islamists and
Millions of Christians took part in the anti-Morsi protests in
different parts of the country. Fr Rafic Greiche, of the Melkite
Greek Catholic Church in Egypt, told Vatican Radio last weekend
that "most of the Christians do not want the president. We have to
be clear about this. Most of the Christians have felt during this
year that none of his promises have been implemented."
Even though the Muslim Brotherhood organised huge rallies in
support of Mr Morsi, there was no mistaking the tide of popular
opinion against the Egyptian President. Tamarrod activists claimed
to have 22 million signatures on a petition calling for President
Morsi to stand down.
A political commentator in Cairo, Bassem Sabry, pointed out that
the Muslim Brotherhood had managed to lose much of the goodwill it
earned in the elections a year ago, "alienating numerous groups
within Egyptian society in the process: the military, Ministry of
Interior, the judiciary, former cabinet ministers, Salafists, the
leaderships of al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, possibly much of the
Foreign Ministry, the intelligence and national bureaucracy, the
private media - even the state media have seemingly turned against