by John L Allen Jr on Oct. 10, 2011
caretaker military government “doesn’t give a damn” about the suffering
of the country’s Christian minority, according to a spokesperson for
the Greek Melkite Catholic church in Egypt, who says local Christians
are calling upon the administration of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam
Sharaf to resign.
Fr. Rafic Greiche made the remarks today in an English-language interview with Vatican Radio.
Greiche said the violence that erupted yesterday in the Maspero
section of Cairo, where Christians had gathered to protest a church
burning in Aswan on Sept. 30, marks the most serious outbreak since the
resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak, but it’s hardly the first
“This is the third time after the revolution, in the space of nine months” that Christians have been targeted, Greiche said.
According to media reports, the violence in Cairo yesterday produced
somewhere between 25 and 35 deaths and left hundreds more injured. Most
of the fatalities apparently came after the Egyptian army opted to use
force to suppress the protests.
Greiche said the army’s role marks a significant deterioration in
the security situation for the Christian minority in Egypt, which is
conventionally estimated at ten percent of the population.
“At the time of the old regime, of Mubarak, there were also churches
being burned and so on,” he said, “but the security services always used
to take care of us. Now, even the government does not give a damn about
what is happening.”
Greiche outlined three demands that Egyptian Christians are
presenting to the country’s interim authorities, ahead of national
elections scheduled for late November.
“First of all, the government of [Prime Minister Essam Sharaf] has to leave,” he said.
In remarks to the Egyptian media, Sharaf reportedly blamed Sunday’s
violence on “invisible hands” seeking to divide the country. Many
Egyptian Christians see that as a deflection of responsibility,
reminiscent of the Mubarak era when Muslim-Christian tensions were
routinely blamed on outside agitators rather than the product of
legitimate Christian grievances.
Grieche also pointed to two religious freedom demands.
“The second thing is that the law permitting the construction of
churches and mosques has to be implemented. It was promised by this
government four months ago, and it has not been done. The law has to be
implemented at all levels,” he said.
“Third, we are asking for another law, one against discrimination. In
Egypt, there is discrimination between Muslims and Christians. We ask
that such a law be implemented for at least ten years, until society
gets used to not discriminating against one another.”