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Egyptian army removes Morsi from power and suspends constitution

05 July 2013


Protest: fireworks light up anti-Morsi demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Tuesday night

Protest: fireworks light up anti-Morsi demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Tuesday night

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 military rule.

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 inevitable.

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 Brotherhood".

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 long for.

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 non-Islamists."

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 them."


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