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Egypt: Church leaders offer differing perspectives on unrest [updated]

Catholic World News - February 07, 2011

A Coptic Catholic bishop has told the Fides news agency that a consumerist culture spread by mass media has helped foster the recent uprising in the largely impoverished nation. And a Jesuit analyst in Alexandria agrees that young people-- not the Muslim Brotherhood-- are the main force behind the continuing public demonstrations.

But Coptic Orthodox leaders are fearful of the future, believing that the unrest could pave the way for an Islamic takeover in Egypt. The Coptic Pope Shenouda III has thrown his support behind the current regime and appealed to his followers not to join the demonstrations. And a spokesman for the Pontifical Missions in Egypt reports:

Coptic Christians — as well as Egypt’s Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Maronite and Melkite Greek Catholics — all fear a fate similar to that of Iraq’s Christians."

“It is especially the young people without prospects who are leading the revolt,” said Coptic Catholic Bishop Youhannes Zakaria of Luxor. “The media played a role in triggering their anger because they have spread a message of transient and consumerist culture in a country where most people are poor. At the cinema and on television, movies and TV series filmed in luxurious palaces are shown continually while many Egyptians struggle to feed their families”

“The world is experiencing difficult times, caused by the economic and global financial crisis, which takes a particularly heavy toll on developing countries,” he added. “Underlying everything is a policy that is focused on selfishness and not on the promotion of human dignity. If only the warnings contained in documents and messages of John Paul II and Benedict XVI had been heard, which clearly indicate that the way of peace is through the promotion of the dignity of all people.”

“What we’re seeing in Egypt could happen in any other country where there is a strong social and economic divide.”

Father Henry Boulad, who heads the Jesuit Culture Center in Alexandria, sees a danger that the Muslim Brotherhood could exploit the unrest. But the uprising, he says, is the result of frustration, particularly among the young, with a corrupt political system. The rebellion, as he sees it, is coming from "a people who had endured too long, suffered too much, borne too much-- a people tired of being crushed, exploited, trampled on, and who suddenly exploded."

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