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Egyptian diplomat urges Christians not to fear election of Islamist parties

Catholic World News - January 11, 2012

Commenting on Pope Benedict’s January 9 address to the diplomatic corps, Egypt’s ambassador to the Holy See traced Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt to the regime of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the nation from 1981 to 2011, and urged Christians not to fear the success of Islamist parties in recent democratic elections.

The Mubarak regime, said Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, fomented divisions between Christians and Muslims and was responsible for the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on January 1, 2011. (Mekhemar, interestingly, was appointed to her post by the Mubarak regime; citing “unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” the regime temporarily recalled Mekhemar to Egypt in protest when Pope Benedict urged Egypt to do more to protect the nation’s Christians.)

The Mubarak government, she added, left “the remnants of an old heritage, a very heavy one, that we are bound to carry until we cross this very difficult time and period of transition and go to a democratic--hopefully democratic--era.”

Mekhemar acknowledged but ultimately dismissed Christians’ fears about the success of Islamist parties in recent elections.

“I don’t think we can even imagine an Egypt without its Christians,” she said. “They are part of this population but not (just) an integral part--more than that. I don’t think we can imagine our Egypt without 10 million (Christian) Egyptians.

She added:

Egypt is Christians and Muslims. It has always been like that and it will remain like this. I understand the fears and concerns of the Christian community. Of course, when you have a conservative power, or a conservative group in power, of course, concerns are there and fears are there that some things might change in the way they are treated--the (way) Christians are treated--in the country.

But I really don’t believe so. I really think that all again will depend on our will to establish a democratic system because it is with democracy that people get over their differences, that minority rights are respected.

With the rise of Islamic parties in parliament, of course one can imagine that some changes will happen in the mode of life in Egypt--concerning either Muslims or Christians. Of course, maybe Christians are concerned more. But I don’t think the majority in the parliament will commit or enact any laws that would affect the rights of Christians in Egypt. This would be a very unwise step to take.

I think the revolution has been there in order to get over inequalities and end inequalities between people so I don’t think they will have any way to do that--even if they want. I don’t think Egyptians will allow them to do so.

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